By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Just when it looked like there could be a rift growing among the Republican Party over the tax deal — we're looking at you Mitt Romney — along comes the omnibus spending bill to get the GOP unified against pork and spending.
The bill, which weighs in at nearly 1,924 pages, is laden with roughly 6,600 pet projects inserted by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, amounting to around $8 billion worth of earmarks in the $1.1 trillion bill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who wrote in several earmarks, himself, told reporters on Capitol Hill yesterday that he was now “actively working to defeat it.”
“I think there are many members of the Senate who have provisions in it for their states who are also actively working to defeat it,” he added. “This bill should not go forward.”
And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., filed an amendment to eliminate all funding for what he called the “outrageous” earmarks. “What a disgrace!” McCain tweeted yesterday.
McCain helpfully provided a list of some of those projects including potato pest management in Wisconsin, oyster safety in Florida, peanut research in Alabama, virus free wine grapes in Washington, maple syrup research in Vermont, the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage Visitor’s Center in New York and the Polynesian Voyaging Society in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner is challenging President Obama to oppose the omnibus bill, citing the president’s own call for a ban on earmarks.
“If President Obama is truly serious about ending earmarks, he should oppose Senate Democrats’ pork-laden omnibus spending bill and announce he will veto it if necessary,” Boehner said in a statement. “This bill represents exactly what the American people have rejected: more spending, more earmarks, and more big government.” http://bit.ly/i0iNzA
Even potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates are getting into the action.
“It is all porked up, it is all earmarked up,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said on Fox News last night. “And this is why the Tea Party and the country, you know, just has had enough.” http://bit.ly/ed0yEC
BOTTOM LINE: Rather than pass the current omnibus, Republicans would prefer to enact a short-term resolution so that the new Congress – with the GOP in control of the House — could have more control over the spending process, ABC’s Matthew Jaffe notes. In order to reach the 60-vote threshold needed for passage in the Senate, Democrats will have the support of a handful of Republican appropriators like Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Kit Bond of Missouri, and Bob Bennett of Utah with earmarks for their states. Three moderate Republicans from New England — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts — are also viewed as possible “yes” votes. Now the clock is ticking. Congress must act fast to prevent a federal shutdown on Saturday.
NO SUCH UNITY ON TAXES. While GOP leaders have found unity in opposing the omnibus spending bill, we remind you, that’s not the case on taxes. More Congressional Republicans have been indicating their displeasure this week, and several of the potential 2012 presidential candidates are also split. Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Pence are opposing it. But, John Thune, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty have come out for it. http://abcn.ws/i9kjm4
TAXES, THEN START. The Senate will hold a final vote on the tax bill later today (1 p.m. is the target time for C-SPAN aficionados.) All indications are that the bill should pass easily and then move on to a vote in the House before it can be signed by the president. Once the Senate has passed the tax bill, members are expected to take up the START arms reduction treaty. Debate on the pact could stretch into next week even if the Senate stays in to work this weekend. Democrats sound confident that it will get the 67 votes needed for ratification with one aide telling ABC News yesterday that they would not have brought the treaty to the floor if they did not think they had the votes to pass it.
DEMS STILL RILED. After a closed-door caucus meeting on Capitol Hill last night, House Democrats told reporters that their leadership has not come to a conclusion on moving forward with the Senate version of the tax bill, according to ABC News’ John R. Parkinson. “We’re not happy people,” Rep. Louise Slaughter, the chair of the Rules Committee, said after the meeting. Beyond Democrats’ opposition to the extension of tax cuts for the wealthy and the estate tax provision, some have expressed their frustrations with what they say is a too-short unemployment extension. Responding to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s warning that if the House votes to make changes to the Senate bill, it could bring the whole thing down, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, told reporters: “the House is not irrelevant.”
NOTED: Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., penned an Op-Ed in the Washington Post today railing against the estate tax provision in the tax compromise calling it a “tax-cut bonanza to super-rich estates.” “The Kyl estate tax provision will not help economic growth or jobs, and it was not even necessary to the core deal. It was added in exchange for extending certain tax credits that were included in the 2009 Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but it was fundamentally not a fair trade,” he writes. “House Democrats think this trade-off should be debated and voted on in the light of day.” http://wapo.st/hZ5exM
BUT SOME GIVING UP. “Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who just a week ago circulated a letter signed by 54 Democrats urging opposition to the deal, now says the ‘die is cast,’ The Hill reported yesterday. ‘It is academic, OK. The bottom line is that it is a fast moving train and that has become clear and Washington is doing what it is finding easy to do.’” http://bit.ly/e2H0zP
ON OBAMA’S AGENDA: President Obama will start his day by making a statement on the economy, tax cuts and a meeting with CEOs at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the morning, ABC’s Sunlen Miller tells us. The president then will hold a working meeting with business leaders at the Blair House. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that this is just one many “fairly regular intervals” that the president has met with CEOS over lunch to discuss a “whole range of ideas that are out there in terms of continuing our fragile recovery." Full list of CEO’s: http://abcn.ws/gzdlDS
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl speak with outgoing New Hampshire GOP Sen. Judd Gregg. Also on the program, Ken Pollack of Families USA who will help sort out the the legal challenges to the health care reform bill. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
DADT SUPPORT HIGH. “Seventy-seven percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military, the most in polling back 17 years, capping a dramatic long-term shift in public attitudes on the issue,” ABC polling analyst Gary Langer notes. “That result in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll comes as the House prepares to vote on legislation that would repeal the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a measure previously approved in the House as part of a larger bill, but stalled in the Senate. … Today 83 percent favor allowing service by gays who don’t tell, up 20 points – and, as noted, almost as many also favor service by gays and lesbians who do disclose their sexual orientation, up 33 points from its 1993 level.” http://abcn.ws/hWOiE4
EXTREME MAKEOVER: WHITE HOUSE EDITION? “President Barack Obama has delayed the most significant staff shuffle of his presidency until after New Year’s — but the changes may be more sweeping than anticipated and could include the hiring of high-profile Democrats defeated in the midterms,” Politico’s Carol E. Lee and Glenn Thrush report. “David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, who will become a senior adviser to the president as early as the first week of January … Changes are expected across the administration, with familiar faces moving into new roles, both inside and outside the White House, and some unfamiliar ones joining the ranks. ‘The president has talked to a bunch of different people throughout this process on how to do the reorganization,” one official said. “You’ll definitely see faces that are new.’” http://politi.co/fZ2phC
CHANGE OF ADDRESS. “Running for mayor of Chicago, [former White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel finds himself embroiled in an acrimonious debate about his residency—fending off endless questions about such mundane matters as the city sticker on his car, the clothes left behind in his Chicago home, and the hotels his family stayed in during their visits to the city,” ABC’s Chris Bury reports. “For more than six hours, Emanuel calmly endured sometimes hostile questions from ordinary citizens and an attorney representing political opponents who want him thrown off the ballot in Chicago’s February 22 mayoral election. … Emanuel ‘s attorneys argue that the election law hinges on intent and that, by keeping a Chicago home and voting absentee from Chicago, he demonstrated his intention to remain a citizen of the city he hopes to run.” http://abcn.ws/hZjuT2
CLINTON IN HAITI. Last week it was the White House briefing room, this week it’s Haiti. Another opportunity for a former president to look, well, presidential: Bill Clinton travels to Haiti today where he is scheduled to visit a cholera treatment center in the morning, followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive and officials from the Ministry of Health. He will speak with reporters to “discuss his Foundation's commitment in response to the outbreak, and the ongoing needs to address the situation” in the afternoon.
@HotlineJosh: TIME award to Zuckerberg makes them appear behind the digital curve — as if they jumped on Facebook bandwagon after seeing "Social Network"
@karenhanretty: Ron Paul tells Fred Grandy on WMAL he WILL vote for the tax deal.
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