Washington, DC has been basking in unusually warm weather this week - temperatures are stretching into the 70's - but if anyone in the nation's Capitol is feeling a chill in the air, look no further than President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.
It seems like relations between the two of them have seldom been frostier.
In fact, as ABC's Jake Tapper reports, Boehner came to the White House last night for President Obama's annual holiday party for members of Congress, but the Speaker didn't pose for a photograph with the president as he has in the past and as other lawmakers did last night. http://abcn.ws/VvUZMc
Tapper notes: "No moment of comity and holiday cheer. No shake of hands and warm chit-chat. No friendly greeting and moment where each pledged to work with the other to resolve this dilemma."
Such is the state of the increasingly contentious fiscal cliff negotiations. Speaker Boehner called the Obama administration's deficit-reduction proposal presented last week by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner a "La-La-Land offer," and White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer was similarly dismissive of the counter-offer Republican leaders submitted yesterday.
"Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve," Pfeiffer said in a statement. "While the president is willing to compromise to get a significant, balanced deal and believes that compromise is readily available to Congress, he is not willing to compromise on the principles of fairness and balance that include asking the wealthiest to pay higher rates."
Republicans proposed $2.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, including savings from Medicare, the Obama health plan, discretionary spending cuts and other trims. The plan would also generate $800 billion in new revenue through tax reform. However, the GOP leaders stuck to their guns - at least in this round - on not raising tax rates on the top 2 percent of income earners. http://abcn.ws/QCxBgO
But Republicans have another problem on their hands: Friendly fire from their right flank. Groups like the conservative heavy-weight, Americans for Prosperity, complained that Boehner's plan came up short.
"The President's proposal and Speaker Boehner's counteroffer fail to seriously deal with the reality of the problems facing the nation," Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips wrote in a scathing statement. "Conservatives are looking for a leader to fight against tax increases, to push back against wasteful government spending, and address the fiscal challenges in a bold way. Sadly this plan leaves Conservatives wanting."
MORE GOP FRIENDLY FIRE - FREEDOMWORKS BLASTS BOEHNER'S OFFER. The small-government group didn't have any kind words for House Speaker John Boehner's $2.2 trillion deficit reduction counter-proposal either. A statement Monday from the group's president, Matt Kibbe, read: "Is there room in the House Republican Conference for legislators who believe that Washington is spending too much money it does not have? Based on this remarkably hostile act by leadership, the answer may be no. This is a clear attempt on the part of Republican leadership to punish those in Washington who vote the way they promised their constituents they would - on principle - instead of mindlessly rubber-stamping trillion dollar deficits and the bankrupting of America. This is establishment thinking, circling the wagons around yes-men and punishing anyone that dares to take a stand for good public policy."
ABC'S AMY WALTER: Polling suggests that Republicans would bear the brunt of the blame for a fiscal cliff dive. But, that doesn't mean that Democrats will "win" this battle. Just as it's impossible to predict the collateral damage from a hurricane, so is it unwise to assume that any party can control the unpredictable political, social and fiscal consequences of the fiscal plunge.
ABC'S RICK KLEIN: House Speaker John Boehner's counteroffer to President Obama was rejected by Democrats. But that wasn't the response that mattered most. It also provoked a firestorm on the right, with cries of RINOs and threats of primary challenges. That's the best sign yet that fiscal cliff talks are proceeding apace. Initial offers have to rejected by the other side. Yet, the extent to which Boehner's first bid was rejected by his own side speaks to why he has to move so tentatively in his dance with the White House. The fact that he's going there says he's serious about reaching an accommodation.
ROMNEY REDUX: CAMPAIGN SECRETS REVEALED AT HARVARD. From ABC's Amy Walter and Michael Falcone: The 2012 election cycle came full circle last week when representatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns, as well as top advisers to many of the GOP primary candidates and several influential outside groups, gathered at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for a 2012 debrief-finally answering some of the lingering questions about the race. On neutral ground in Cambridge, Mass., fierce rivals (think Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and strategist Stuart Stevens and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and strategist David Axelrod) met for the first time since the election-and many for the first time ever.
-ROMNEY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: IMMIGRATION WAS A MISTAKE. Romney campaign manager Matt Rhodes … says that his candidate could have won the primary without attacking Perry's support for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. When asked by panel moderator Jonathan Martin of Politico whether he "regret[s] trying to outflank Perry on the right on immigration," Rhoades took a long pause, and then shifted the conversation to Perry's controversial statements about Social Security. Romney had attacked the Texas governor for calling the popular entitlement program a "Ponzi scheme" and a "failure." "In retrospect," Rhoades said. "I believe we probably could have just beaten Perry with the Social Security hit." http://abcn.ws/Vi7Q29
-TEAM ROMNEY NEVER READ CLINT EASTWOOD'S SPEECH. Romney strategist and convention director Russ Schrieffer was asked by panel moderator Ron Brownstein of National Journal if anyone actually read a copy of Eastwood's speech. The answer: not so much. Russ Schrieffer: "I said [to Eastwood] are you going to do what we talked about, are you going to talk about what you talked about at these fundraisers. And he looked at me and said.. 'Yep.' " Laughter followed Schrieffer's comments to which he replied: "It's Clint Eastwood, you argue with him." http://abcn.ws/Vi7Q29
-OBAMA WAITED TO GO 'FULL OUT' IN FLORIDA. Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod: "One of the things that we had discussed internally was the state of Florida and how we were going to treat Florida. We had made a decision that we were going to wait until mid September and after the conventions to see where we were in Florida before we fully committed. We were in, we had invested a lot, but we hadn't been in the Miami media market. When we emerged from conventions not only had we gotten a little bump, but we saw Florida remained very competitive and made the decision to go full out in Florida." http://abcn.ws/Vi7Q29
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
OBAMA WARNS ASSAD ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS. ABC's Mary Bruce reports: President Obama today warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the use of chemical weapons by his regime would be "totally unacceptable" and that he would be "held accountable." "I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command, the world is watching," Obama said at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium in Washington. WATCH Martha Raddatz's report for "World News": http://abcn.ws/VskSwj
CORY BOOKER'S FOOD-STAMP CHALLENGE BEGINS. Cory Booker wasn't kidding when he struck up a Twitter dare to live on the dollar-equivalent of food stamps, ABC's Sarah Parnass reports: Social media-savvy Mayor Cory Booker posted a photo of a crumpled receipt Monday morning to Facebook and Twitter. The Newark, N.J., mayor wasn't filing expenses; he was showing supporters what he'll be eating for the next week as he takes on the food stamp challenge. Starting today and going until Dec. 12, Booker will eat only what he can buy with $29.78, which is slightly more than the $28 individuals receiving food stamps tend to spend on average. http://abcn.ws/VhPYVz
MEDICARE AND THE CLIFF. With fiscal-cliff specifics far from settled, ABC's Michael Falcone looks at the possibility of changes to Medicare: [D]etails are the subject of intense debate, especially when it comes to the question of whether to raise the eligibility age for Medicare beneficiaries-a proposal that Republicans support, but Democrats largely resist. … While some Democratic lawmakers including [Majority Whip Dick] Durbin and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., have said that Medicare cuts "have to be part of the solution" they face opposition from more liberal elements of the party as well as powerful interest groups like the AARP. … What's more, raising the eligibility age remains unpopular with most Americans. … "I've said that means-testing on Medicare-meaning people like myself-you can envision a situation where, for somebody in my position, me having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays or things like that would be appropriate," Obama said at a July 2011 news conference. Last week, however, White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to say whether the administration had put means-testing on the table again in this round of negotiations although Republican House leaders included it as part of their proposal on Monday. http://abcn.ws/VhZ3O8
OBAMA CONFRONTS TAX SKEPTICS ON TWITTER. The president opened up his Apple MacBook for a Twitter Q&A on Monday, ABC'S Devin Dwyer reports: With talks to resolve the "fiscal cliff" at an impasse, President Obama today used Twitter to respond directly to skeptics of his plan to hike income tax rates on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at the end of the year. … One Twitter user, @hunertred, asked Obama why he wouldn't compromise and accept the Republicans' proposal to raise tax revenue by capping or eliminating deductions and closing loopholes instead of raising tax rates, something that "seems like a reasonable" middle ground. The president called the approach unacceptable because it would not raise sufficient revenue without also ending popular tax incentives, like charitable deductions, that benefit millions of Americans. "Breaks for middle class impt for families & econ," Obama tweeted later, when asked by another user whether the home mortgage deduction might be on the table. "If top rates don't go up, danger that middle class deductions get hit," he said. http://abcn.ws/UbNR4h
READ OBAMA'S FULL TWITTER Q&A HERE: http://abcn.ws/TycOrX
AILES RECRUITED PETRAEUS AS GOP CANDIDATE. Bob Woodward reports in The Washington Post: "Roger Ailes, the longtime Republican media guru, founder of Fox News and its current chairman, had some advice last year for then-Gen. David H. Petraeus. … Petraeus, Ailes advised, should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director and accept nothing less than the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military post. If Obama did not offer the Joint Chiefs post, Petraeus should resign from the military and run for president, Ailes suggested. … [Fox national security analyst Kathleen] McFarland also said that Ailes … might resign as head of Fox to run a Petraeus presidential campaign. At one point, McFarland and Petraeus spoke about the possibility that Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., which owns Fox News, would 'bankroll' the campaign. 'Rupert's after me as well,' Petraeus told McFarland." http://wapo.st/UCPP2a
AUDIO: PETRAEUS SAYS HE'S NOT RUNNING. Listen to audio, obtained by the Post, of Petraeus telling Fox News he's not running for president. LISTEN: http://wapo.st/Uljg6y
FISCAL CLIFF: WHAT HAPPENS, EXACTLY? The Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta explains: "[P]olicy makers face a number of other fiscal challenges with different deadlines in 2013. The timing of the decisions and their effects, then, won't be as neat as the metaphor suggests … The primary pieces of the cliff-tax increases and spending cuts-would kick in over two days if policy makers don't act.vOn Jan. 1, 2013, new tax rates and rules would go into effect on a range of things from investment income to wages, because of a number of expiring tax provisions. That means wages earned beginning Jan. 1, 2013, would be subject to higher individual income-tax rates and payroll tax rates.vOn Jan. 2, 2013, $110 billion in spending cuts are scheduled to begin, prompted by the 2011 Budget Control Act. The cuts are designed to be sweeping and hit a number of different federal programs, but unlike the tax provisions, they might not start immediately. Many believe the White House could backload the cuts to later in the year, giving policy makers more time to negotiate. The White House hasn't said publicly whether this is an option." http://on.wsj.com/VhTHCb
HISPANIC MEGA-DONORS LAUNCH IMMIGRATION GROUP. Politico's Anna Palmer and Carrie Budoff Brown report: "Led by a trio of top fundraisers that includes actress Eva Longoria, the effort comes out of The Futuro Fund, a national initiative of Latino leaders who helped reelect Obama. Organizers are aiming to marshal the support of the thousands of Hispanics it galvanized during the campaign to create a robust online and social media presence that can pressure Congress into acting on immigration reform. But it could cause friction with more traditional Hispanic civil rights groups, like the League of United Latin American Citizens and National Council of La Raza, that have spent decades lobbying for an overhaul of the country's immigration laws. It could also spell trouble for Republicans looking to make inroads with Hispanics after their electoral drubbing." http://politi.co/VthViL
OBAMA KEEPS WASSERMAN SCHULTZ AT DNC. President Obama has tapped Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida to remain at the helm of the Democratic National Committee as the party looks toward the 2014 midterm election and an opportunity to solidify electoral gains, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports. "I've asked Debbie Wasserman Schultz to continue her excellent work as chair of the DNC," Obama said on Twitter. "Thanks for all you do, Debbie." He signed the tweet "-bo," signifying that he personally penned the message from his campaign's @BarackObama account. Wasserman Schultz tweeted in reply, "Thank you, Mr. President. I am honored to serve. #Forward." Democrats will formally select their party leadership for the next cycle at their annual meeting in Washington on Jan. 22, the day after Obama's inauguration. By tradition, members will affirm the president's pick to lead the DNC. http://abcn.ws/TCd24M
CONSERVATIVES VS. BOB COSTAS. After Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide on Saturday, "Sunday Night Football" commentator Bob Costas delved into gun control, and conservatives aren't happy about it. ABC's Sarah Parnass reports: "If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kassandra Perkins would both be alive today," Costas said, quoting from the Whitlock article. Many questioned whether Sunday Night Football was the appropriate venue for such a charged political statement. "I think Bob Costas owes America an apology. And I think he should be fired from Sunday Night Football," former South Carolina GOP executive director Todd Kincannon tweeted Monday. Herman Cain called Costas' remarks "sanctimonious dreck" on Twitter, linking to an article called "Excuse me, Bob Costas, but you're an idiot, so shut up." "Shame on NBC & Bob Costas for that embarrassing anti-gun screed," tweeted 2008 Romney staffer Ted Newton. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre said he started getting calls with complaints "the minute it happened." http://abcn.ws/YreL0X
OUCH: LEAST HONEST RATINGS - CONGRESS AND CAR SALESMEN. A new Gallup survey on honesty ratings brought some disturbing news for Congress, ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports: While nurses, pharmacists and doctors topped the list as the most honest, members of Congress were at the bottom, with only 10 percent of respondents giving them "very high" or "high" marks. The only profession with a lower positive honesty rate? Car salespeople-only 8 percent of people rated their honesty standards are "very high" or high." When it comes to ranking professions reversely-in order of the lowest perceived honesty and ethical standards, members of Congress took the top distinction. Some 54 percent of respondents said that they thought that the honesty standards for Congress members were "very low" or "low." http://abcn.ws/11HDFXY
THE CONSULTANTS ARE STILL GETTING PAID. Businessweek's Julie Bykowicz reports: "More than five months after Newt Gingrich dropped out of the Republican presidential primary, the founder of the super-political action committee backing him was still drawing a check. In fact, almost half of the $480,000 Rebecca Burkett paid herself as founder of Winning Our Future came after the former House speaker quit the race. 'It was absolutely full-time work and beyond-up to 17 hours of work a day,' Burkett said in an interview. 'You never knew what kinds of calls you would get, and you had to be ready to respond to anything.' While the 2012 election is over, the financial windfall for political consultants and fundraisers spawned by the millions of dollars donated to super-PACs continues - and often with little oversight." http://buswk.co/R2OdQg
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS: COLLECTING SALES TAX ONLINE IS EASY. Alliance for Main Street Fairness, a group that pushes for changes to online sales-tax rules that it says benefit Internet sellers over brick-and-mortar retailers, sends a post-Cyber-Monday video in which small-business owners talk about the ease of collecting sales taxes online. "For too many years, brick-and-mortar businesses have been at an unfair competitive disadvantage to online-only retailers who are able to avoid collecting and remitting sales taxes," the group writes. In the video, one man says: "I think the best thing and the fairest thing for everybody would be to make sure that Internet retailers along with brick-and-mortar stores play by the same set of rules … you should have to comply with the laws of the areas you're selling into … technology today makes that a piece of cake to do." WATCH: http://bit.ly/TzK5mH
@MotherJones: Exclusive: @DickArmey quits Tea Party group in a split over direction: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/12/dick-armey-resigns-freedomworks-tea-party … via @DavidCornDC
@JakeSherman: Right freakout continues. Jim DeMint adds to Erick Erickson, Heritage Action in opposing what they dub an $800 billion tax hike by Boehner