By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
‘TAKE IT, OR LEAVE IT.’ That was Vice President Joe Biden’s comment (paraphrased by California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman) after another contentious meeting with House Democrats last night that was meant to persuade them to accept the tax cut deal that many of them are having a hard time swallowing. “There remain very serious reservations on the House side,” Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen told reporters after the gathering with the vice president. “There’s still a very serious question whether this package can pass in the form it's in now.” Democrats in the meeting said that Biden left little room for tweaking the deal and while many members of the party continue to be agitated at the substance of the compromise plan as well as the White House’s handling of the negotiations, there are now signs that it may be moving toward Congressional passage before the end of the year. With backing from a critical mass of Senate Democrats, the administration will likely be able to avoid a filibuster and even with persistent opposition on the part of a broad group House Democrats, it could still make it's way through boosted by Republican support. The The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray note: “Democrats were still angry Wednesday about what they viewed as President Obama's capitulation to GOP demands to preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, particularly a deal to exempt estates worth as much as $10 million from a revived inheritance tax. But lawmakers said the magnitude of the concessions Obama won came into sharper focus Wednesday as the White House highlighted independent forecasts predicting that the package could create as many as 2.2 million jobs next year.” http://wapo.st/ejwHAy
TIMELINE. The Senate could unveil legislative language on the tax cut compromise bill as early as today, ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday that the Senate could start floor debate on the bill in the coming days. I hope that can be in the next day or two that we can be on that,” Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon.
WEINER: CRITIC-IN-CHIEF. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY, ramped up his criticism of the tax deal and the president's handling of the negotiations in an interview on ABC "Good Morning America" with George Stephanopoulos this morning. “Unfortunately I think that President Obama sees the job more as negotiator-in-chief than really the leader of our country and the leader of our party." Weiner conceded that there are “some good things” in the tax cut deal, but he believes it could have been better if the Obama had put up more of a fight. More from George's interview: http://abcn.ws/fSLCju
THE SALES JOB. The White House seemed to pull out all the stops on Wednesday to sell the deal. On a conference call with “Organizing for America” supporters on Wednesday night, President Obama once again defended the compromise, saying that if the middle class tax cuts were allowed to expire at the end of the year “that would have cost our economy nearly a million jobs” and "it would have been profoundly damaging to the economy, as well, at a time when, frankly, the economy is growing but we still have very high unemployment.” And the White House on Wednesday also deployed a series of e-mail endorsements from around two dozen elected officials yesterday — senators, governors and even mayors — who were getting behind the tax deal. http://abcn.ws/dWvLix
Not only that, but as ABC’s Jake Tapper notes, the outgoing director of the National Economic Council, Larry Summers, asserted at an off-camera briefing on Wednesday that a failure to pass the tax cut compromise President Obama negotiated “would significantly increase the risk” of a double-dip recession. “If this process were to break down and a bill were not passed,” Summers said, not only would economic projections recently revised upwards not happen, “downward revisions would commence.” http://abcn.ws/gZ681W
NOTED: Republicans are having their own intraparty squabble over the provision in the compromise proposal that would reinstate the estate tax next year. At the heart of the dispute is whether the Obama-GOP accord constitutes a tax cut or a tax hike. “On the surface it looks like a tax increase,” Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) told The Hill’s Russell Berman. Backing Garrett up on that view is the conservative Club for Growth and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. Berman writes: “House Republican leaders have taken the opposite view, with a spokesman for Speaker-designate John Boehner (Ohio) saying the estate tax provision ‘is not a tax increase.’” http://bit.ly/gkwnmn
Watch ABC’s Jonathan Karl’s “Good Morning America” segment on Democrats still wary of the tax plan, the White House pushback and Obama’s unlikely Republican ally — Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell. http://abcn.ws/fkFFRo
DREAMS DEFERRED? The House last night passed the DREAM Act, a measure that would provide a path to legal residency for young, undocumented immigrants first brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports that the bill passed 216 to 198, including eight Republicans in favor of the bill and 38 Democrats opposed. “The Senate, which postponed an anticipated vote on the act today, is expected to vote Thursday morning. Prospects of the bill's passage are slim. Senate Republicans have indicated they may filibuster a vote, presaging the same fate the bill met in 2007 when it last was brought to the Senate floor. Supporters are unlikely to have the 60 votes needed to override a GOP filibuster.” http://abcn.ws/gmlCt8
Meanwhile, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is not expected to pass unless a dispute between Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over the amendment process can be resolved, ABC’s Matthew Jaffe notes. Collins was set to vote against the defense bill if a vote had taken place last night, but the postponement gave the two parties more time to negotiate. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said yesterday that she would vote “yes” on the bill, but she also warned: “If the majority attempts to push it through allowing little or no debate or votes on amendments, I will be inclined to oppose those efforts.” http://abcn.ws/hP9yqM
RNC WOES CONTINUE. Another zinger for the already embattled Republican National Committee and its chairman Michael Steele: ABC’s Mathew Mosk report that the RNC “quietly disclosed more than $4 million in previously unreported debt in amended filings with the Federal Election Commission” this week “In a letter to the FEC Wednesday, RNC official Boyd Rutherford said the unreported money woes ‘were discovered during a self-initiated internal review process, which was undertaken in connection with the arrival of a new Chief of Staff and Finance Director.’ The additional debt numbers only add to earlier reports that the RNC was not fully disclosing its unmet financial obligations. In July, ABC News and others reported that the RNC had failed to report more than $7 million in debt to the FEC in what some alleged was an attempt to make the party appear to be in better shape than it was.” http://abcn.ws/foFI2I
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein talks to Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., today. Larson, the Democratic Caucus Chairman, will talk about the ongoing tax debate in Congress. Also on “Top Line”: Sue Davis from The National Journal. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
PRIMARY TIME? With all the Democratic unrest over taxes, Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith tackle a question many political observers have been asking lately: Would any Democrat really challenge Obama? Their reporting didn’t find any takers: “Two of the Democratic Party's most well-known progressives – Howard Dean and Russ Feingold - have both indicated that they won't take on Obama and there are few others who have the stature and willingness to mount a credible campaign against the president. Top leaders of the institutional left say they don't want a 2012 intra-party civil war. And as disillusioned as some in Obama's base may be in the wake of his tax deal-making with Republicans - and the frustration does seem to be at a high watermark – an array of Democrats said it is unlikely the president would face a challenge from within his own party. ‘At moments of frustration or in an attempt to leverage a policy agenda, it is becoming a regular attention grabber to raise the specter of a primary challenge,’ said former SEIU president Andy Stern. ‘In the case of President Obama, it deserves to be idle chatter.’” http://politi.co/h7LicF
WORSE OFF. More than half of Americans say they are “worse off now than they were two years ago when President Barack Obama took office,” according to a new Bloomberg National Poll. The poll also found that two-thirds of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. More results from the survey: “51 percent of respondents think their situation has deteriorated, compared with 35 percent who say they’re doing better. The balance isn’t sure. Americans have grown more downbeat about the country’s future in just the last couple of months, the poll shows. The pessimism cuts across political parties and age groups, and is common to both sexes.” http://bit.ly/dZmBGU
PALIN SOUNDS OFF. In an interview with Time Magazine’s Jay Newton-Small Sarah Palin compares the Obama presidency to that of Jimmy Carter’s. “The country is rejecting his agenda,” she told Time. “My vision of America is diametrically opposed to his. He sees America as the problem. I see America as the solution.” She also weighed in on her 2012 presidential ambitions. “I would run because the country is more important than my ease, though I’m not necessarily living a life of ease.” More from the interview: “My positions are not at all controversial. The majority of Americans agree with me across the board on the issues. I think it’s a personal thing that probably stems from media demonization of me and mischaracterization of what I stand for. Shoot, if I read and believed all the lies these guys write about me, I wouldn’t like me either!” http://bit.ly/hXYvHl
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