Politics » Political Punch http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics The latest Politics news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers including Jake Tapper, George Stephanopoulos and more. Wed, 01 Oct 2014 16:55:56 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Latest White House Gatecrasher a Real Fox http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/latest-white-house-gatecrasher-a-real-fox/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/latest-white-house-gatecrasher-a-real-fox/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:11:55 +0000 Katie Kindelan http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880289

While President Obama deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin abroad, the groundskeepers and Secret Service agents who guard the White House are trying to combat an equally wily opponent at home.

The latest gatecrasher to show up at the president’s home uninvited is not a “Real Housewife” but a real, live fox.

The little red fox was first spotted on the White House grounds last fall, just before the government shutdown.

According to The Wall Street Journal, while White House staffers found themselves at home during the furlough, the fox made himself at home at the White House.

“We don’t mind that he passes through, but we don’t want him to stay,” Dale Haney, the superintendent of the White House grounds, told the newspaper. “No overnight guests.”

Though the ground that houses the First Family is one of the most highly-protected properties in the world, the fox has managed to outfox everyone, literally.

The Wall Street Journal reported White House groundskeepers have planted traps and used bait to lure the fox, all to no avail.  Their aim is not to kill the fox, according to the paper, but to relocate him to a nearby park.

In the meantime, the fox is seemingly enjoying his place among the nation’s seat of power.  White House staffers have spotted the fox jumping a fence and sleeping in the bushes.

Aides told the Wall Street Journal the president himself was “stunned” when he caught a glimpse of the fox from inside the Oval Office scampering along the colonnade along the White House Rose Garden.

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IRS Defends Agency ‘Obamacare’ Official http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/irs-defends-agency-obamacare-official/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/irs-defends-agency-obamacare-official/#comments Fri, 17 May 2013 18:10:59 +0000 Abby D. Phillip http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=846688
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                (Image Credit: Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images)

Despite her congressional testimony, the Internal Revenue Service today denied that the former commissioner of tax exempt and government entities – now running the agency’s health care office – was in charge of the unit’s day-to-day operations after Dec. 2010.

Sarah Hall Ingram retained the title of commissioner, with oversight over tax-exempt groups, but the IRS says she moved to the agency’s Affordable Care Act office full time by the end of 2010, six months after the tax agency began selectively scrutinizing conservative groups.

Her successor as commissioner, Joseph Grant, said Thursday that he would retire from the IRS in early June.  Grant received the post on a permanent basis last week.

“Sarah has been assigned full-time to ACA activities since December 2010,” an IRS spokesman said in a statement. “Joseph Grant began acting as Commissioner [of tax exempt and government entities] in December 2010. Ingram was not running TE/GE on a day-to-day basis during the time frame in question.”

Despite the agency’s assertion today, however, Ingram maintained her title as commissioner of tax exempt and government entities, using it in testimony she delivered to congress in November 2011 and May 2012.

In late 2011, Ingram indicated that she served in two positions simultaneously.

“My name is Sarah Hall Ingram and I’m commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Operating Division at the Internal Revenue Service. And I also serve as the executive lead for the IRS Operational Planning and Implementation of the Tax Law Provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010,” she testified before the House Ways and Means Committee Nov. 15, 2011.

And in this  May 2012 testimony in the Senate Finance Committee over Indian tribes’ tax-exempt status, Ingram testified in her capacity as commissioner of tax-exempt groups, despite the IRS’s assertion that she was only responsible for the Affordable Care Act after 2010.

According to an inspector general report, a group within the IRS’s Cincinnati office began the practice of scrutinizing tea party applications for 501(c)4 tax-exempt status in July 2010, during Ingram’s tenure over the tax-exempt and government-entities division.

Her subordinate, Lois Lerner, director of tax-exempt organizations, did not learn about the practice until June 2011.

Speaking during a congressional hearing this morning, outgoing IRS acting director Steven Miller defended his decision to elevate Ingram to her latest position.

“She’s a superb civil servant, sir,” he said in response to a question from Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio.

When asked whether she was involved in the recent controversy, Miller said, “I wouldn’t imagine so.”

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IRS Official in Charge During Tea Party Targeting Now Runs Health Care Office http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/irs-official-in-charge-during-tea-party-targeting-now-runs-health-care-office/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/irs-official-in-charge-during-tea-party-targeting-now-runs-health-care-office/#comments Thu, 16 May 2013 22:15:54 +0000 John Parkinson http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=846558

The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.

Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.

Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit.

Grant announced today that he would retire June 3, despite being appointed as commissioner of the tax-exempt office May 8, a week ago.

As the House voted to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act Thursday evening, House Speaker John Boehner expressed “serious concerns” that the IRS is empowered as the law’s chief enforcer.

“Fully repealing ObamaCare will help us build a stronger, healthier economy, and will clear the way for patient-centered reforms that lower health care costs and protect jobs,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

“Obamacare empowers the agency that just violated the public’s trust by secretly targeting conservative groups,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “Even by Washington’s standards, that’s unacceptable.”

Sen. John Cornyn even introduced a bill, the “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013,” which would prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury, or any delegate, including the IRS, from enforcing the Affordable Care Act.

“Now more than ever, we need to prevent the IRS from having any role in Americans’ health care,” Cornyn, R-Texas, stated. “I do not support Obamacare, and after the events of last week, I cannot support giving the IRS any more responsibility or taxpayer dollars to implement a broken law.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also reacted to the revelation late Thursday, stating the news was “stunning, just stunning.”

ABC News’ Abby D. Phillip contributed to this report. 

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(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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IRS Asks for Reading List, Tea Party Group Sends Constitution http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/irs-asks-for-reading-list-tea-party-group-sends-constitution/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/irs-asks-for-reading-list-tea-party-group-sends-constitution/#comments Tue, 14 May 2013 18:31:46 +0000 Abby D. Phillip http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=846210 gty constitution mi 130514 wblog IRS Asks for Reading List, Tea Party Group Sends Constitution

                                                (Image Credit: Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

When Marion Bower decided to start her tea party organization in 2010, she didn’t know that it would take nearly two years for the Internal Revenue Service to approve her request for tax-exempt status.

The Ohio woman also did not expect that providing information about the books her group read would be part of the application process.

“I was trying to be very cordial, but they wanted copies of unbelievable things,” Bower told ABC News today. “They wanted to know what materials we had discussed at any of our book studies.”

She ultimately sent one of the books, “The Five Thousand Year Leap,” promoted frequently by Glenn Beck, to the IRS official handling her tax-exempt request in Cincinnati. She also sent a paperback copy of the Constitution.

“They wanted a synopsis of all the books we read,” Bower said. “I thought, I don’t have time to write a book report. You can read them for yourselves.”

Bower, 68, said she did not want to cause trouble or be argumentative with the IRS, so she patiently responded to their questions about her group, American Patriots against Government Excess (PAGE). She said the group in Fremont, Ohio, about 45 miles from Toledo, was formed as an educational group.

Her group’s request was granted in March 2012, about two years after they originally applied. She said she believed the requests were onerous, including requests for agenda and minutes of their regular meetings and other documents.

“I felt like, ‘My goodness, what in the world is going on here?’” Bower said. “Is this ever going to end?”

Bower’s group would have raised a red flag for the IRS simply because of its name, according to the agency’s own admission.

In 2012, the IRS says that it flagged groups with the words “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names for additional scrutiny. Bower’s group fit the ticket.

“They wanted copies of our blog. They said they had already taken copies of our website. They wanted a list of all of our officers, what we do at our meeting, how our board is made up,” Bower said.

The IRS says that it is part of its normal oversight responsibility to request additional information to “develop” applications that need heightened scrutiny because tax-exempt groups might only engage in certain amounts and certain kinds of political activity.

But Bower said her group consisted of volunteers who routinely passed out copies of the constitution at parades, and had informational meetings on anything from the health care law to disaster preparedness.

“We thought it would be a very simple process,” Bower said. “It wasn’t a simple process.”

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New NRA President Jim Porter Knocked ‘Fake President’ Obama http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/new-nra-president-jim-porter-knocked-fake-president-obama/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/new-nra-president-jim-porter-knocked-fake-president-obama/#comments Fri, 03 May 2013 19:41:26 +0000 Abby D. Phillip http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=845075 ht jim porter 01 mi 130503 wblog New NRA President Jim Porter Knocked Fake President Obama

                                                                                          (Image Credit: NRANews/YouTube)

The NRA has a new president, Birmingham, Ala., attorney Jim Porter, and he has a knack for firing up a crowd if his old stump speeches are any indication.

Porter, who until this week was first vice president at the NRA and chairman of the group’s Legal Affairs Committee, will officially take over for David Keene at the group’s annual convention this weekend in Houston. The NRA’s executive vice president and CEO, Wayne LaPierre, has headed the organization since 1991, and has become a somewhat controversial but public face of the organization in recent months.

It’s no surprise that Porter, whose father was an NRA president in the late 1950s, is well-versed in NRA doctrine, namely protecting 2nd Amendment rights at all costs.

And anyone expecting the NRA to soften on assault weapons would be, well, deeply disappointed.

Indeed, Porter, 64, has put it in crystal-clear terms: He believes the NRA was founded to teach civilians how to use military-style weapons in the Civil War era.

“That was the very reason they started the national rifle association, was to teach and train the civilian in the use of the standard military firearm,” Porter said at the New York Rifle & Pistol Association’s Annual Meeting in 2012. “And I am one who still feels very strongly that that is our greatest charges that we could have today is to train the civilian in the use of the standard military firearm, so when they have to fight for their country, they’re ready to do it.

“Also when they’re ready to fight tyranny, they’re ready to do it. Also when they’re ready to fight tyranny, they have the wherewithal and the weapons to do it,” Porter added.

The video of the meeting was first unearthed by the Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

Speaking of a fight, Porter also noted that the Civil War is commonly mislabeled in the North.

“Y’all might call it the Civil War, but we call it ‘the war of northern aggression’ down South,” Porter said.

In that same speech, Porter also made it clear that there’s no love lost between the NRA and President Obama, whom he called a “fake president.”

“His entire administration is anti-gun, anti-freedom anti-second amendment,” Porter said.

And that was before Obama backed a new background checks bill and pushed for an assault weapons ban in Congress.

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VP Biden Says He Needs Cops’ Help to Reinstate ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban and Much More http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/vp-biden-says-he-needs-cops-help-to-reinstate-assault-weapons-ban-and-much-more/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/vp-biden-says-he-needs-cops-help-to-reinstate-assault-weapons-ban-and-much-more/#comments Thu, 20 Dec 2012 20:20:10 +0000 Jake Tapper http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=829480 “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.

“We see no reason why the assault weapons ban — quite frankly, you guys helped me write in the original crime bill. It passed the Senate then didn’t get past the House. And then we went back at it again with (Senator) Dianne Feinstein’s leadership, she convinced people to put it back in the bill.”

Sitting between Thomas Nee, the president of the National Association of Police Organizations, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who is president of Police Executive Research Forum & Major Cities Chiefs Association, Mr. Biden recalled that when he began drafting the legislation twenty years ago, “everybody thought that was just an exercise to reach out and pretend we cared about what you thought.”

But the police organizations came forward and suggested ideas not just about punishment and incarceration but about community policing, reaching out, and having drug courts.

“You know better than anyone what is needed out there,” said the vice president. “And what I think the public has learned about you is you have a much more holistic view of how to deal with violence on our streets and in our country that you’re ever given credit for.”

The vice president was joined in the Cordell Hull Conference Room on the second floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building by the Cabinet secretaries from the four relevant agencies — Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius – as well as Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the vice president’s chief of staff Bruce Reed, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz and White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler.

In addition to Nee and Ramsey, representing law enforcement were the leaders of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Latino Peace Officers Association, the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the National Troopers Coalition, the Police Executive Research Forum & Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the Police Executive Research Forum.

“We’ve worked on everything from cop-killer bullets to the type of weapons that should be off the street and a whole lot else,” the vice president said. “So that’s what I want to talk to you about today. I want to hear your views because for anything to get done, we’re going to need your advocacy.”

And with that, he said, “I’d like to disinvite the press out of the room.”

-Jake Tapper

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The Benghazi Report and Parents of Children With Mental Illness: Today’s Qs for O’s WH, 12/20/12 http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/the-benghazi-report-and-parents-of-children-with-mental-illness-todays-qs-for-os-wh-122012/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/the-benghazi-report-and-parents-of-children-with-mental-illness-todays-qs-for-os-wh-122012/#comments Thu, 20 Dec 2012 19:31:26 +0000 Jake Tapper http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=829461 TAPPER: Has the president read the Accountability Review Board report?

CARNEY: I don’t know. I haven’t — I know he has been briefed on it. I don’t know if he’s read it word for word, but he’s a voracious reader, so he may have.

TAPPPER: The — I believe one person has resigned and three have been — stepped down from their current duties but are still State Department employees. There might — there might have been an update for that since I last read about that. Is that sufficient for the president? Is that — is that enough accountability from the Accountability Review Board?

CARNEY: I think by every measure, the report has been assessed to be — to have been sharply critical and very blunt and clear-eyed about both problems that exist, problems that need to be fixed and the need for accountability, and actions are — already have been taken, as you just — as you just noted.

TAPPER: I’m not questioning the report. I’m –

CARNEY: Well, again, I think –

TAPPER: I’m wondering: is that enough?

CARNEY: I think independent experts here, Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering, oversaw a — Accountability Review Board which I think everyone is judging to have been quite — and the recommendations that they have made are being adopted in full, and there has already been, in this very short period of time, actions that demonstrate accountability is being upheld.

I don’t — I mean I haven’t had a discussion with the president, but I think he is both appreciative of Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen for the service they provided to the nation here, for the depth that they delved into in this report and the seriousness of the recommendations, the speed with which they acted; and, you know, he intends to make sure that the administration, as the secretary of state has said, begins implementation of all of these recommendations before the next secretary of state takes office.

Some of this has to do — some of it will have to do with working with Congress to ensure that Congress provides the necessary funds to allow for enhanced security at our diplomatic missions around the world. So there is obviously more action that needs to be taken, but this is a very serious report and the president has indicated that he expects it to be implemented fully.

TAPPER: Again, I’m not disparaging the report. I’m just wondering if –

(Cross talk.)

CARNEY: Again, I think — I don’t have another answer for you. Four people have already, in one way or another, been held accountable, fairly senior people, so –

TAPPER: Is that sufficient for the president? That’s the only question.

CARNEY: I believe the president believes that the recommendations and the actions taken have been the right ones.

TAPPER: O.K., one other thing I wanted to ask about the mental health ramifications following Sandy Hook, and that is there have been some interesting personal stories in the media about parents — a lot of them single parents, but not exclusively — struggling with children who are mentally ill, some of them violently so, most of them not, who do not have enough help from society. They fall through some holes, some cracks in the system. I’m just wondering if the president has seen any of these, have read any of the — of the essays that have been written, and caught any of them on television, because it’s been — it’s actually been — it’s been remarkable to hear, because normally you don’t hear stories like this.

CARNEY: Well, I haven’t had that discussion with him. He is someone who reads widely, and it would surprise me if he hasn’t read or seen some of the reports that you’re talking about, probably more likely to have read rather than seen, with all due respect to the broadcast media.

But the fact is that he believes very strongly that mental health is one of the major areas that needs to be addressed as we take a kind of comprehensive approach to this problem. It’s why — setting aside the issue of gun violence — but the issue of mental health in general is extremely important to — in the president’s view, to our — what our overall approach to health care in this country ought to be, which is why, as you know, he made sure that the health care law that he passed with Congress will ensure 30 million more Americans have access to mental health services, and that will also — makes recommended mental health services available without a co-pay or a deductible — again, part of the effort here to make it clear that issues of mental health are as important, both for the individual and for the society, as issues of physical health.

So — but as it relates to the gun violence there is no question that this is something that needs more exploration and likely more action, which is why the president has taken the action that he has.

 

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President Obama Prepares for Action Against Gun Violence http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/president-obama-prepares-for-action-against-gun-violence/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/president-obama-prepares-for-action-against-gun-violence/#comments Thu, 20 Dec 2012 11:13:47 +0000 Jake Tapper http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=829406 Our “Nightline” report:

-Jake Tapper

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Senior Administration Officials Tell Biz Leaders Boehner’s Plan B Could Lead Nation Off Fiscal Cliff http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/senior-administration-officials-tell-biz-leaders-boehners-plan-b-could-lead-nation-off-fiscal-cliff/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/senior-administration-officials-tell-biz-leaders-boehners-plan-b-could-lead-nation-off-fiscal-cliff/#comments Wed, 19 Dec 2012 23:22:05 +0000 Jake Tapper http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=829381 Senior Obama administration officials met with business leaders to argue that House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” could put the nation on a path to go over the fiscal cliff, a source familiar with the meeting told ABC News this afternoon.

The effort is just the latest example of the Obama administration trying to urge the Republican Party’s supporters in the business community to urge its Tea Party side to be more willing to compromise with Democrats.

The Obama administration officials present were chief of staff Jack Lew, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling, and Office of Management and Budget director Jeff Zients.

The business leaders present were Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; former Michigan Gov. John Engler of the Business Roundtable; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty of the Financial Services Roundtable; Rob Nichols of the Financial Services Forum; Marion Blakey of the Aerospace Industries Association; Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Bob Stevens; president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers Jay Timmons; and Dan Danner of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

-Jake Tapper

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President Obama Urges GOP to ‘Take the Deal’ and Avoid Fiscal Cliff http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/president-obama-urges-gop-to-take-the-deal-and-avoid-fiscal-cliff/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/president-obama-urges-gop-to-take-the-deal-and-avoid-fiscal-cliff/#comments Wed, 19 Dec 2012 21:12:52 +0000 Mary Bruce http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=829341 With just 12 days until tax increases and steep spending cuts kick in, President Obama today urged Republicans to “peel off the partisan war paint” and compromise on a deal to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff.”

Speaking at a White House news conference, Obama told House Republicans to “take the deal” and said it was puzzling that they had not accepted what he described as a “fair” offer.

“They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package, that we will have stabilized it for 10 years,” he said. “That is a significant achievement for them. They should be proud of it. But they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes.

“I don’t know how much of that just has to do with, you know, it is very hard for them to say yes to me,” he added. “At some point, you know, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters and think about what’s best for the country.”

After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the president said, the country needs to see its leaders working together to compromise.

“If there’s one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important,” he said.

Obama’s comments at a news conference announcing a new task force on gun violence came shortly after the White House slammed House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal to extend the current tax rates for those earning less than $1 million a year. He threatened to veto it.

“They’re thinking about voting for raising taxes, at least on folks [with annual incomes] over a million, which they say they don’t want to do – but they’re going to reject spending cuts that they say they do want to do,” the president said. “That defies logic. There’s no explanation for that. You know, I think that any objective person out there looking would say that, you know, we put forward a very balanced plan, and it’s time for us to go ahead and get it done.”

Obama said the proposals that he and Boehner, R-Ohio, have put forth are “actually pretty close” and that he remains optimistic a deal can be reached.

“I’d like to get it done before Christmas,” Obama said. “There’s been a lot of posturing up on Capitol Hill instead of just going ahead and getting stuff done. And we’ve been wasting a lot of time. It is the right thing to do. I’m prepared to get it done. But they’re going to have to go ahead and make some adjustments.”

Obama’s latest offer dropped his demand that tax rates go up on those making more than $250,000, raising the threshold to incomes above $400,000, and lowered his revenue target to $1.2 trillion over 10 years. It also offered more limits on entitlement spending, including slower annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries.

Boehner has called the offer unbalanced, but pledged to continue negotiating.

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