Just In Time For Christmas — Fiscal Cliff Chaos (The Note)

Dec 21, 2012 9:06am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

NOTABLES:

  • BOEHNER  PULLS ‘PLAN B’: ABC’S John Parkinson, Devin Dwyer, and Sunlen Miller report that House Speaker John Boehner tried and failed to win enough votes to pass his fiscal cliff “Plan B” option, and in a surprise development late last night, he pulled it from the House floor. “Plan B” called for extending current tax rates for Americans making up to $1 million a year, but Boehner acknowledged that it did not have the support necessary to pass, leaving a resolution to the fiscal cliff in doubt. “The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with [Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff,” Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement. “The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the Jan. 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt. The Senate must now act.” http://abcn.ws/ZWwpsE
  • REID RESPONDS: “It is now clear that to protect the middle class from the fiscal cliff, Speaker Boehner must allow a bill to pass with a combination of Democratic and Republican votes,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. “Speaker Boehner’s partisan approach wasted an entire week and pushed middle-class families closer to the edge. The only way to avoid the cliff altogether is for Speaker Boehner to return to negotiations, and work with President Obama and the Senate to forge a bipartisan deal.”
  • NRA PROMISES ‘MEANINGFUL CONTRIBUTIONS’ TO GUN DEBATE TODAY: The National Rifle Association has been noticeably silent since the shooting in Newtown, Conn., but ABC’s Sarah Parnass reports that this morning the group may weigh in on how to keep a deadly shooting massacre like last week’s at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school from happening again. The NRA will hold a news conference in Washington, D.C., just before 11 a.m. “Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting,” the group said in a press release Tuesday. “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” http://abcn.ws/ZnXAh1
  • THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: This Sunday, “This Week” covers the latest setback in the fiscal cliff stalemate, and the search for solutions to reduce gun violence in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. The powerhouse roundtable debates those topics and all the week’s politics, featuring Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Americans for Tax Reform President and NRA board member Grover Norquist. Check the “This Week” page for full guest listings. Tune in Sunday: http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek

THE NOTE:

House Speaker John Boehner woke up this morning a defeated man.

As ABC’s Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl reported on “Good Moring America”, his failure to muster enough votes to pass the so-called “Plan B” measure last night represented a “crushing” blow to the speaker — and to the prospects for a fiscal cliff deal by the end of the year.

“It demonstrated definitively that he doesn’t even have the Republican votes to pass a Republican plan let alone a compromise with the president,” Karl noted.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod called last night’s development an “embarrassment” for the House Speaker.

Boehner said he would now leave it up to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hammer out a proposal that could draw bi-partisan support.

But as Karl reported this morning, his talks with senior Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill indicate that they think the ball is still in Boehner’s court.

“The Speaker talked to Republicans last night closing with a prayer, saying ‘God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change,’” according to Karl. “He is greatly weakened and that is not necessarily a good thing for the White House because they will need him to be able to pass whatever deal is finally reached – if one is reached.”

And now, with time running out, lawmakers are poised to leave Washington for the holidays, with no plans to return until about two days after Christmas.

 

WORD FROM THE WHITE HOUSE. The White House released this statement from Press Secretary Jay Carney, ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports: “The President’s main priority is to ensure that taxes don’t go up on 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses in just a few short days. The President will work with Congress to get this done and we are hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly that protects the middle class and our economy.”

HOW CLOSE TO A DEAL? DEPENDS WHO YOU ASK. More from ABC’s Jonathan Karl on the fiscal cliff: The differences are more significant than just tax rates.  Republicans say the Democratic offer is really $800 billion in spending cuts and $1.3 trillion in tax increases.  That is because the inflation adjustment applies to tax rates as well as Social Security–resulting in less than $100 billion in added tax revenues. Democrats count that as a spending cut.  Republicans say that is a tax hike.  So the real difference, from their perspective, is $450 billion. The $400,000 vs. $1 million threshold for tax rates hikes is just one part of this. Republicans want more spending cuts and fewer tax increases. http://abcn.ws/ZnRtJH

TODAY ON THE HILL: At 10 a.m., Speaker Boehner holds a news conference to discuss the fiscal cliff crisis, ABC’s John Parkinson notes. This afternoon, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has her own news conference to react to the drama last night.

 

NOTE IT!

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Last night’s debacle in the House was a powerful example of the splits between the parties and even inside the parties, a stunning failure by House Speaker John Boehner to corral even his own members. But there’s a not-implausible scenario that actually makes it easier now for a semi-large deal between Boehner and President Obama. The speaker was never going to need all of his members — or even most of his members — to pass a compromise measure. The failed vote clarifies matters for both sides, and injects some urgency into what’s left of the talks. And Boehner has a bigger incentive than ever to reach a meaningful deal; last night doesn’t need to be his legacy of 2012.

ABC’s AMY WALTER: Will the markets be able to do what Boehner couldn’t: Scare the living daylights out of members about the consequences of a cliff dive?  At this point, that may be the only leverage for a deal.

 

GEORGE’S BOTTOM LINE: WOULD STRICT GUN CONTROL WORK IN THE U.S.? In the latest installment of his ABC/Yahoo! Power Players series, “Bottom Line, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos says tight restrictions and fewer guns can lead to fewer gun deaths, as it has in Australia, Japan and the U.K. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/RIAazW

 

THE BUZZ:

with ABC’s Chris Good (@c_good)

OBAMA RESPONDS TO GUN PETITION, ASKS FOR HELP. ABC’s Mary Bruce and Jeanette Torres report that President Obama recorded a video response to a gun-control petition posted to the White House’s “We the People” website telling viewers he’s pushing for a renewed ban on “military-style assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines, and a new look at school safety and mental health. In his YouTube response, the president says: “I will do everything in my power as president to advance these efforts, because if there’s even one thing we can do as a country to protect our children, we have a responsibility to try. As I said earlier this week, I can’t do it alone. I need your help. If we’re gonna succeed, it’s gonna take a sustained effort from mothers, fathers, daughters and son, law enforcement and responsible gun owners, organizing, speaking up, calling their members of Congress as many times as it takes, standing up and saying ‘enough’ on behalf of all our kids.” WATCH: http://bit.ly/VVS91n

HARTFORD COURANT: LETTER FROM MICHELLE. The Connecticut newspaper publishes a letter from first lady Michelle Obama, one week after the Newtown shooting. Michelle Obama writes: “I want you to know that this is just the beginning. As my husband has said, in the coming weeks, he will use all the powers of his office to engage citizens from across this country to find ways to prevent tragedies like this one. And please know that every minute of every day, we are thinking of you, and praying for you, and holding you and your families in our hearts as you begin the slow and wrenching work of healing and moving forward.” http://cour.at/TbR9sH

BIDEN WANTS COPS’ HELP ON GUN CONTROL. ABC’s Jake Tapper reports: “We have to have a comprehensive way in which to respond to the mass murder of our children that we saw in Connecticut,” said Vice President Joe Biden today, meeting with the leaders of law enforcement organizations whom he said had been his “friends and allies for over 35 years.” The vice president convened the first meeting of his interagency commission to examine possible actions to prevent the next gun violence tragedy like the one that befell Sandy Hill Elementary School. “We’re going to need your help,” he said to the group, suggesting he wants them to help push for a reinstatement of the 1994 ban on some types of semiautomatic assault rifles, more colloquially known as the “assault weapons ban,” which expired in 2004. That ban was part of the larger Crime Bill, which Biden, then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped draft. http://abcn.ws/ZnSKQV

MORE ON THE GUN PETITION. ABC’s Mary Bruce reports on the gun-control petition at “We the People”: The petition calls for the White House to “immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress,” gathering over 150,000 signatures by 5 p.m. yesterday. “The goal of this petition is to force the Obama Administration to produce legislation that limits access to guns. While a national dialogue is critical, laws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths,” the petition reads.

FIXING THE GOP: PARTY LIKE IT’S 1949. ABC’s Gary Langer writes: Americans by a 15-point margin in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the Republican Party needs less conservative policies that are more focused on middle- and lower-income Americans, rather than better leaders to sell its existing positions. And 63 years ago, Americans by an 11-point margin said precisely the same thing. Mark it up to the swinging pendulum of American politics: Six decades after Republican presidential nominee Thomas Dewey’s unexpected loss to incumbent Democrat Harry S. Truman, the GOP is back in the same doghouse. The question last was asked in 1949, months after Truman’s victory in what’s widely considered to be the greatest upset in presidential election history. http://abcn.ws/XTIl9f

U.S. AMBASSADOR SHOWS MUSCLE IN HOLIDAY CARD. ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports: U.S. Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck is offering Helskini “a different take on the elder statesman” for the holidays. Oreck posted a special edition of the embassy’s 2012 holiday card, featuring his bulging bicep, to his official Facebook account Tuesday and reportedly also mailed copies of it to friends. The image comes from a photo shoot Oreck did last month for the Finnish fitness magazine “ProBody.” A similar shot donned the cover of the Dec. 4 issue, which included an interview with the ambassador. “I say 60 is the new 40. My wife says, in my case, 60 is the new 58,” Oreck said of the shoot in a Facebook post. “One way or the other, fitness is important.” http://abcn.ws/WzUk0q

BOOKER FOR SENATE? ABC’s Sarah Parnass reports: Popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker is “exploring the possibility” of running for the U.S. Senate rather than governor, the social-media-savvy Democrat posted on his website today. His letter said he will finish out his term as mayor and consider running for the Senate in 2014. … “I look forward to consulting with Senator Lautenberg,” Booker, who’s African-American, writes. “During my lifetime, he has been one of New Jersey’s most important leaders. It would be a privilege to continue his great legacy of http://abcn.ws/U1Qw29

BUT BOOKER VS. CHRISTIE IS A NO-GO. More from ABC’s Sarah Parnass: Many observers considered Booker, 43, a potential challenger to Chris Christie in New Jersey’s 2013 governor race. Such an election would have pitted the brash, tough-talking, union-challenging Republican governor with sky-high approval ratings in a blue state against the vegetarian do-gooder mayor who shoveled snow on request from Twitter, undertook a “food stamp challenge” to raise awareness about hunger and once entered a burning building to save a neighbor. http://abcn.ws/U1Qw29

STORM CHASERS: SENATE ADDS ANOTHER HURRICANE TO SANDY BILL. To win support in the Senate, funding for Hurricane Isaac (Aug. 2012) has been added to the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Sunlen Miller report: Without mentioning them by name, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., singled out today specific Republican senators, calling on them to help pass the supplemental aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy. The call was also backed up quietly with some money. Late Wednesday night the Senate Appropriations Committee made some hasty edits in the emergency spending bill for Sandy victims, adding money for states that had been hit — by a different hurricane. The move no doubt sweetened the pot a bit for some senators who might otherwise complain about excessive government spending. http://abcn.ws/VaigVu

HILLARY GROUNDED. ABC’s Dana Hughes reports: Secretary Clinton’s concussion has already forced her to cancel last week’s trip to North Africa and the Middle East  and postpone testifying before Congress. Now it appears it  the most traveled Secretary of State in history may have taken her last foreign trip as America’s top diplomat when she went to Europe two weeks ago. State Spokesperson Philippe Reines confirms the Secretary is not planning any further trips in January for now. “Given her condition, the Secretary’s doctors have advised that she may not fly for any significant duration in the coming weeks.  So as things stand we are not planning any travel through mid-January,” said Reines.

MARK SANFORD RETURNS. The disgraced former South Carolina governor will run for Congress, CNN’s Peter Hamby reports: “‘He’s looking all but certain to do it,’ said a former top aide to Sanford, who did not want to be identified while prematurely revealing the plans. A formal announcement will come soon, the source said. Sanford intends to seek the Republican nomination in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, a seat being vacated by Rep. Tim Scott, who was appointed to the United States Senate earlier this week by Gov. Nikki Haley.” http://bit.ly/R8LqUs

PARTISANSHIP AT BENGHAZI HEARING. The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Siobhan Gorman report: “Congressional hearings to help unravel details behind the September consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, morphed into a political face-off Thursday as Democrats and Republicans sought to position themselves and their parties for the months and years ahead—possibly including 2016, the next presidential election year. Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, used his hearing Thursday to articulate views on American foreign policy that went well beyond the Benghazi assault … Republicans, meanwhile, took the opportunity during the hearings to hone criticism of Mrs. Clinton, a possible future presidential candidate, over her State Department record as she prepares to leave that post in the coming weeks.” http://on.wsj.com/UVwZ4z

IN THE NOTE’S INBOX:

–GOP REP.-ELECT, IRAQ VETERAN BLASTS HAGEL. Opponents of former Nebraska GOP senator, Vietnam vet, and noted Iraq war critic Chuck Hagel’s likely nomination as secretary of Defense have continued to criticize him publicly, and today the Wall Street Journal runs an op-ed from Tom Cotton, a former infantry officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who is now a Republican congressman-elect from Arkansas. Cotton writes: ”Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2006, two years before his retirement as the Republican senator from Nebraska, Mr. Hagel penned a column for the Washington Post entitled ‘Leaving Iraq, Honorably.’ He asserted that ‘there will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq,’ and ‘the time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed.’ Rather, Mr. Hagel argued, we “must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal.’ … No one had told us during our time in Baghdad that we would achieve “no victory.” … My soldiers had fought bravely to stabilize that city, protect innocent civilians and defeat al Qaeda. Those soldiers were proud of their accomplishments. The troops recognized the folly of Mr. Hagel’s proposed withdrawal.” http://on.wsj.com/Ud9m99

LIBERALS RESPOND TO ‘PLAN B’ FAILURE. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee emails a statement from co-founder Stephanie Taylor: “Speaker Boehner’s failure to pass his so-called ‘Plan B’ shows that any deal will need many Democratic votes to pass. House Democrats have major leverage and must insist to the White House and Republicans that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits are off the table.” And another from the House Progressive Caucus: “Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) are standing up against a proposal to cut Social Security benefits by changing the way we calculate inflation … Tying Social Security to chained CPI is a benefit cut and members of the CPC will not vote for a deal that cuts the benefits that millions of Americans rely on.”

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@ItsDavidFord: CONGRATS to @JonKarl who moves to the other end of Pennsylvania Ave. as ABC News Chief WH Correspondenthttp://abcn.ws/Ug9pSh  (cc: @PressSec)

@clairecmc: We can avoid cliff with a balanced approach that will get Ds and Rs but there are a bunch of extreme Rs that are making it really hard.

@JWGOP: The future of the GOP clearly rests outside Washington, with leaders who understand responsibility. Jeb Bush, Christie, Jindal, Snyder, etc.

@JECarter4: 151 Victims of Mass Shootings in 2012: Here Are Their Storieshttp://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-victims-2012 … via @motherjones

@ArletteSaenz: The Mayan apocalypse may not happen today, but Dec. 21 still marks Rick Perry’s 12 year anniversary of becoming governor of Texas

@JebBush: #FF @BarbaraBushFdt. Advocating for and establishing literacy as a value in every home.

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