Cliffhanger: Congressional Leaders Gather At The White House (The Note)

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


  • NO MORE TIME FOR PHOTO-OPS: As ABC's Jonathan Karl reported on "Good Morning America," there is not much time left when it comes to the fiscal cliff. As one senior White House official told Karl, there is no time for photo-ops or show meetings as Congressional leaders meet with the president at the White House today. Obama is expected to kick things off with a public statement, reiterating his firm position that tax rates on the wealthiest two percent must go up. He will not waiver on that. That would appear to put him on a collision course with the Republicans, but both sides are saying that they believe something can, and must be worked out.
  • PETRAEUS TO TESTIFY ON THE HILL. David Petraeus is on Capitol Hill today to answer questions on what went wrong when four Americans died in the terrorist attack on the American compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, ABC's Brian Ross reports. He is expected to talk about security videos recovered from the consulate and surveillance video from an unmanned CIA drone that showed events in real time. Meanwhile though, questions are swirling as the story about Petraeus's affair with Paula Broadwell continues to unfold.
  • NOTED - THE INTEL COMMITTEE'S FOUR HOUR BRIEFING: Declaring it the "first step in" in a many-step "fact finding mission" the Senate Intelligence Committee met for just under four hours on Thursday, hearing testimony from acting CIA director Mike Morell among others about the attacks in Benghazi. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports. During the briefing the Senators saw a real-time film put together by the NCTC of what happened on September 11th at the US consulate in Benghazi. "The film is a composite from a number of sources, it is real-time and does begin from when before the incident started and it goes through the incident and the exodus," said Chair of the Senate Intel Committee, Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein described, adding that it does include the predator video but without answering if the video shows Ambassador Stevens.
  • THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK": THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': NANCY PELOSI, PETER KING, CARL LEVIN. In her first Sunday morning interview since the election, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., discusses the latest on the fiscal cliff negotiations following Friday's White House summit, only on "This Week." Plus, House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., debate the fallout from the Petraeus affair, the ongoing Benghazi investigation, and the escalating violence in the Middle East. ABC News Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz and the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable debate all the week's politics, with Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and ABC News' George Will, Donna Brazile, and Jonathan Karl. Tune in Sunday: (h/t ABC's Imtiyaz Delawala)


It seems appropriate that at the White House last night President Obama held a private screening of the new film, "Lincoln," which features a close-up look at a dramatic period of intensive legislative maneuvering between the president and Congress.

The movie the president saw last night (along with special guests, including director Steven Spielberg, screenwriter Tony Kushner and producer Kathleen Kennedy) focused on passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States - a victory the movie portrays President Lincoln winning with equal parts patronage and old-fashioned arm-twisting.

Fast forward nearly 150 years and President Obama and legislative leaders are dealing with a far different set of issues, but as both sides meet today in an attempt to avoid the "fiscal cliff," the essential dynamic of give-and-take is not all that different.

As ABC's Devin Dwyer and John Parkinson report that the meeting will take place this morning in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. It will be the first face-to-face encounter between Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell since the election last week. They will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The goal is to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion and address the expiring Bush-era tax cuts - and to do it all by Dec. 31. A missed deadline means tax increases on all Americans and cuts to government spending on social programs and defense that economic analysts fear could send the country into another fiscal shock.

Dwyer notes that ahead of today's gathering, "Obama has signaled that he will make a concerted push for Congress to immediately enact the one thing all sides agree on: extending Bush tax rates for families earning $250,000 or less, or 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses. Administration officials say the president's starting point for broader negotiations will be his call for $1.6 trillion in new revenue over the next 10 years."

Parkinson hears this from a senior aide to House Speaker John Boehner: "As a sign of our seriousness, Republicans have put revenue on the table, provided it comes from tax reform and is accompanied by spending cuts. President Obama must now follow suit by telling the American people what spending cuts he's willing to make."

More from their preview of today's negotiations:


The Note's virtual political roundtable.

ABC's AMY WALTER: Has the Tea Party era already ended? Two years ago at this time the Tea Party was triumphant and poised to reshape the GOP identity. Compromise was a four letter word. Instead they were committed to confrontation. Today we have not heard a peep from their leaders or even the rank and file about the real possibility that the GOP leadership will compromise with the president and vote to raise tax rates. And even if they did speak up their voice no longer carries the influence it once did.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: They don't get votes, but they do get voices. The governors, per usual, point the way forward, and the future of the Republican Party as they see it is a little different than their brethren on Capitol Hill. Gathered at the Republican Governors Association meeting, they're taking a softer line on higher taxes, and a harsher tone toward Mitt Romney after he ascribed President Obama's victory to "gifts" he packaged for minority groups and women. The governors have their own leadership challenges that have nothing to do with fiscal cliffs of other Washington policy matters. But they are important not just for direction but for cover on the Hill, particularly as 2016 hopefuls emerge from the state houses.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS JAKE TAPPER? ABC's own Jake Tapper popped by "Jimmy Kimmel Live" last night where he talked about his new book "The Outpost" (, answered Kimmel's question about "busting" Jay Carney's "balls" and did his Obama impression. WATCH: and


with Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)

GEORGE'S BOTTOM LINE: WILL REPUBLICANS ABANDON NO-NEW-TAXES PLEDGE? The election is over but the fiscal cliff is coming fast - more than $500 billion of tax increases and spending cuts hit January 1st if Congress and the President fail to reach a deficit reduction deal. In the latest episode of his ABC/Yahoo! Power Players series "George's Bottom Line" George Stephanopoulos addresses one of the major questions on observers mind regarding the negotiations- will Republicans continue to honor Grover Norquist's pledge- an iron clad promise not to raise any taxes. "I think a lot of Republicans know right now they're going to have to be open to some revenues in order to get a deal now that President Obama has won re-election" George says. WATCH:

AT GOP GOVERNOR'S GATHERING, PLENTY OF BLAME FOR ROMNEY. The LA Times' Michael Memoli reports: "A week's worth of soul-searching among Republicans has yielded no shortage of explanations for the party's failure to win the White House. What they won't say is that President Obama won a mandate for his vision, or that the GOP has veered too far right in its outlook. 'The president won the election. But I think it wasn't on the issues,' Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday at the annual Republican Governors Assn. conference. The meeting of Republican governors and governors-elect here, which also attracted party strategists, donors and lobbyists, is the largest gathering of GOP leaders since the election. And few were shy about laying much of the blame squarely at the feet of the former Massachusetts governor, who was once the group's chairman."

GOP RESISTS CALLS TO RETOOL MESSAGE. The Wall Street Journal's Colleen McCain, Neil King Jr., and Peter Nicholas report: "Two weeks after their presidential election defeat, Republican Party leaders are falling into roughly two camps as they struggle to explain what happened and devise ways to broaden the party's base. Some top GOP officials worry their message is wrong for a rapidly diversifying population, and that fundamental shifts in policy may be required. But the more dominant voice, and the one gaining currency within the center of the party, says such drama isn't necessary."

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: HAMAS TO BLAME FOR GAZA VIOLENCE. When it comes to the escalating border violence between Israel and the Gaza strip, Obama administration officials have made the U.S. position clear: Hamas is to blame. ABC's Dana Hughes and Ann Compton report, aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the administration strongly condemns the on-going rocket fire from Gaza. Carney lamented the civilian casualties among both the Israelis and Palestinians over the last few days, but said it is Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group, which governs the Gaza strip, that is instigating the violence. This is the worst flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians in several years.

MCCAIN MISSES CLASSIFIED BRIEFING WHILE BLASTING WHITE HOUSE OVER BENGHAZI. ABC's Jonathan Karl and Sunlen Miller report, Senator John McCain is demanding answers on the Benghazi attack, but his office tells ABC News he missed a classified briefing on the subject because of a "scheduling error." The classified briefing was held on Wednesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee - of which Senator McCain is a member - and lasted three hours. It featured testimony by officials from the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center. During part of the briefing, McCain was holding a press conference demanding answers about the administration's handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Step. 11 that killed four Americans, including US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. A spokesman for Sen. McCain points out that he spent hours at the Intelligence Committee briefing Thursday afternoon, and will be at the committee's hearing with General Petraeus Friday morning.

PETRAEUS SCANDAL: PAULA BROADWELL STARS IN GUN COMMERCIAL. ABC's Brian Ross and Matt Mosk report, in addition to the book and the romance, Paula Broadwell's role as a trusted confidant of General David Petraeus provided another benefit: rising-star status in elite military circles. That meant, among other perks, a speaking slot at the Aspen Ideas Festival, an invitation to Washington's annual OSS Society dinner, and a role as an expert commentator in an infomercial for a gun manufacturer. Watchdog groups say it is that last assignment - promoting a futuristic-looking, high-tech gun for a company that may have been trying to catch the eye of military purchasing officials - that they find troubling.

PERPLEXITIES PROMPT CRIES OF VOTER FRAUD. In a close election year, every vote counts, so election watchdogs want to make sure every vote is legitimate reports ABC's Sarah Parnass. 2012 turned out to be a much less tight race than many predicted, but the vigilant vote watchers of America still had their eyes out for any oddities at the election- and in Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida and Ohio, a series of perplexities at the polls have lead to some election overseers suggesting voter fraud.

OBAMA MEETS WITH PARENTS WHO LOST SONS IN SANDY. On Thursday, on his first trip to New York City after superstorm Sandy walloped the Northeast, President Obama met with the parents of the two young boys - Brandon and Connor Moore - who died after being swept out to sea reports ABC's Devin Dwyer. "I had the opportunity to give some hugs and communicate thoughts and prayers to the Moore family," Obama said of Damien and Glenda Moore. "They lost two young sons during the course of this tragedy. And obviously, I expressed to them, as a father, as a parent, my heartbreak over what they went through. And they're still obviously a little shell-shocked."

THE 2012 CAMPAIGN SUPERLATIVES. The 2012 presidential campaign was filled with memorable moments, good, bad and just plain bizarre. And now that the campaign is over, it's time to sift through those ups and downs and determine who won, who lost, and who just confused us- from the best campaign ad, to the least successful big spender, to the noteworthy write-in campaign from a feline competitor in Virginia.

JILL KELLEY ALLEGEDLY ASKED FOR $80M, BRAGGED OF PETRAEUS CONNECTION. ABC's Brian Ross reports, A New York businessman who discussed a multi-billion-dollar Korean business deal with Jill Kelley said the Tampa woman at the center of the Petraeus scandal told him Gen. Petraeus had arranged for her to become an honorary consul for South Korea and promote free trade, and then asked him for $80 million to complete the deal. "Ms. Kelley made it clear to me that General Petraeus put her in this position, and that's why she was able to have access to such senior levels [of the Korean government]," said Adam Victor, president and CEO of TransGas Development Systems, "that they were essentially doing a favor for General Petraeus, and that she had access solely because of her relationship with General Petraeus."

SENATE 'GANG OF EIGHT' LOOKS TO OTHER TO LEAD DEFICIT TALKS. The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman reports: "After years of wrangling, members of the bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight are ratcheting back expectations for a deficit reduction breakthrough and now say the best they can probably do is offer ideas for the one fiscal negotiation that will truly matter: talks between President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner that begin in earnest on Friday. Another fruitless meeting this week of the Senate group has only raised the pressure ahead of the White House session between the president and Congressional leaders. "It was great. We had a lot of doughnuts," said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat and the most powerful member of the gang, which was once seen as the best hope for a budget deal that could draw support from both parties."


@petehoekstra: Initial reports from Patraeus hearing - "20 questions" rears it's ugly head. Ask a question and get no answer.

@DaveWalkerCAI: Even if we avoid going over the fiscal cliff, states need to recognize the reality that federal aid to states will decline over time. DW

@RCP_Articles: The Political Landscape After 2012

@nytjim: " @gabrielsherman: Roger Ailes tells @tvnewser "I know no one believes it - we have no agenda." … #FoxNews"

@DougHeye: @RonBonjean on @CNN today - not once, but TWICE! 9:30 and 10:30am!