The Cliff Creeps Closer (The Note)

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

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


  • FISCAL CLIFF TALKS SOUR: ABC's Jonathan Karl reported on "Good Morning America" that the fiscal cliff negotiations took a turn for the worse yesterday after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's meeting with Congressional Republicans. Aides to Speaker Boehner say that the White House's offer was completely unrealistic. The key elements of the deal, Karl reports, are $1.6 trillion in tax increases over the next 10 years, $50 billion in additional stimulus spending, $400 billion in unspecified Medicare cuts over the next 10 years, and effectively ending Congress's ability to vote on the debt limit. Republicans may agree to more taxes, but not that much more, and they aren't going to agree to more spending. In order to get a deal Republicans will have to agree to some tax increases, Democrats will have to agree to some spending cuts, but right now the two sides are very far apart. WATCH:
  • BILL CLINTON RETURNING TO WASHINGTON? With President Obama about to enter his second term, ABC's George Stephanopoulos answered viewers' questions about potential new members of the cabinet for his ABC/Yahoo! series "George's Bottom Line." One curious viewer, Bronwyn Lowe, asked Stephanopoulos, "Is it possible for President Clinton to become Secretary of State after he has been president for two terms? I know it sounds odd, but he would be the perfect replacement. Just curious what the probability would be." George's take: "Now there is nothing in the constitution that that would prevent Obama from choosing Bill Clinton as Secretary of State, but I think that is a very unlikely, if not close to impossible, pick."
  • WHAT OBAMA CAN LEARN FROM 'LINCOLN': ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein note in their latest episode of the ABC/Yahoo! Power Players series "Top Line," that this isn't the first time a president has been re-elected in tumultuous times with the challenge of a lame duck Congress to pass controversial legislation, a polarized electorate, and an even more polarized Congress. Is it the year 2012 … or 1865? In fact, it's both, which is what makes the new "Lincoln" movie and our current political situation so much fun - there is so much about these times that are similar. Granted this year's issue of an impending "fiscal cliff" is far less important than abolishing slavery, but there are so many other parallels. Obama could learn a lot from Lincoln's wheeling and dealing with politicians, as it is portrayed in the movie. WATCH:
  • THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': TIMOTHY GEITHNER. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner discusses the latest on the high-stakes stalemate over the fiscal cliff negotiations, Sunday on "This Week." Plus, George Stephanopoulos and the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable debate all the week's politics. Check the "This Week" page for full guest listings. Tune in Sunday: (h/t Imtiyaz Delawala)


"Absurd" - that's the word one top Republican Hill aide used to describe the plan that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented to GOP leaders yesterday to avoid the fiscal cliff.

And an aide to House Speaker Boehner described the White House's offer as "completely unrealistic" and "a break with reality."

Meanwhile, a top Democratic insider complained to ABC's Jonathan Karl that "the Republicans have taken to screaming at us."

Sources familiar with the phone call Wednesday night between Speaker Boehner and President Obama - which lasted 30 minutes - told Karl it was as "unproductive" and "blunt." One source said the president did most of the taking, explaining why he will insist that tax rates go up.

"No substantive progress has been made over the last two weeks," said House Speaker John Boehner at a press conference yesterday. "It's time for the president and Congressional Democrats to tell the American people what spending cuts they're really willing to make."

With few signs of optimism in Washington and just 33 days before the end-of-the-year fiscal cliff deadline, President Obama is taking his show on the road.

ABC's Mary Bruce notes that the president is bypassing the wrangling between both sides and traveling to Hatfield, Pa. today where he will tour a toy manufacturing facility and speak to workers there.

According to the White House, "the President will continue making the case for action by visiting a business that depends on middle class consumers during the holiday season, and could be impacted if taxes go up on 98 percent of Americans at the end of the year."

FROM THE SPEAKER'S OFFICE: Boehner's office gives six reasons why the Obama administration's fiscal cliff offer won't fly:

"1) Twice the Taxes: It's absolutely true that the President ran on a tax plan of raising the top two rates. That's what Americans heard from him. That yields about $800 billion in new tax revenue. He just asked for twice that. 2) Not Even the Votes in His Own Party: The Senate was barely able to pass a bill with $800 billion in new tax revenue a few months ago (51 votes). There is no chance there are votes in the Senate for anything close to $1.6 trillion. 3) Unbalanced: The President also ran on a so-called balanced approach. Apparently his idea of balance is four times as much revenue as spending cuts. 4) No Net Spending Cuts: The spending cuts they are offering (which come later) are wiped out by all the new goodies he's also requesting. (stimulus, UI, payroll, housing, etc). 5) Debt Limit Pipe Dream: Permanently doing away with the debt limit? Come on. Guess what - the debt limit is actually very popular. Raising it to infinity is not. 6) We're Far From Opening Bids: Even as an "opening bid," this offer would be ludicrous. But we're way past that. We had about seven weeks to resolve this. Three of those weeks are gone, and this is what he comes with?"

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE: White House spokesman Josh Earnest: "Right now, the only thing preventing us from reaching a deal that averts the fiscal cliff and avoids a tax hike on 98 percent of Americans is the refusal of Congressional Republicans to ask the very wealthiest individuals to pay higher tax rates. The President has already signed into law over $1 trillion in spending cuts and we remain willing to do tough things to compromise, and it's time for Republicans in Washington to join the chorus of other voices - from the business community to middle class Americans across the country - who support a balanced approach that asks more from the wealthiest Americans."


ABC'S RICK KLEIN: It's not that they're talking past each other so much as that they aren't talking to each other at all. That would seem to be a bad sign as negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner appear to have taken a turn for the worse, amid reports of "curt" phone calls and leaks of the only offer on the table so far. But the bluster has a point: It's still about reassuring the respective bases, and preparing them for the choices ahead. So while the words are growing sharper, they aren't even meant for the other side's consumption, at least not yet.


-THE INTERNAL POLLS THAT MADE MITT ROMNEY THINK HE'D WIN. The New Republic's Noam Scheiber reports exclusively that "a Romney aide provided the campaign's final internal polling numbers for six key states, along with additional breakdowns of the data, which the aide obtained from the campaign's chief pollster, Neil Newhouse. The numbers include internal polls conducted on Saturday, November 3, and Sunday, November 4, for Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire. According to Newhouse, the campaign polled daily, then combined the results into two-day averages. In New Hampshire, the final internal polling average has Romney up 3.5 points, whereas he lost by 5.6. In Colorado, the final internal polling average has Romney up 2.5 points; he lost by 5.4."

-"I'M NOT SURE WHAT THE ANSWER IS," Newhouse told Scheiber, explaining that his polls were a lot more accurate in most of the other swing states. "The only ones we had that really seemed to be off were Colorado - a state that even Obama's people tweeted they thought it was going to be one of their closest states - and the New Hampshire numbers, which seemed to bounce a lot during the campaign."


with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)

HILLARY CLINTON: FISCAL CLIFF IS A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Thursday that a failure to pass a budget deal would have dangerous consequences for the global economy and weaken America's standing in the world. ABC's Dana Hughes reports, Clinton spoke at the Brookings Institute, where she outlined the state of the relationship between Europe and America. Clinton called a weak economic future on either side of the Atlantic one of the greatest threats to global security and transatlantic relations.

NOTED: CLIFF TALKS LIKELY TO GO DOWN TO THE WIRE. "Government officials may well spend New Year's Eve crunching budget numbers rather than clinking champagne glasses," reports USA's Today's David Jackson. "There's no real incentive for the parties to reach an agreement now. Markets may want an early settlement, but, as mentioned, but the fiscal doesn't start until Jan. 1 - more than four weeks way, a near-eternity in politics. Even after Jan. 1, elements of the fiscal cliff phase in gradually, and a new Congress could always pass legislation retroactive to the start of the year…Expect pushes for last-minute concessions."

PELOSI URGES VOTE ON MIDDLE CLASS TAX RELIEF. ABC's John Parkinson reports, house Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged Republicans to allow a vote on legislation to extend tax cuts on the first $250,000 of personal income and delay the debate over tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers until next year. Pelosi surmised that extending tax breaks for the middle class would be "a Christmas present to the American people" that would not only increase the confidence of consumers, but also financial markets.

THE SPEAKER'S LOBBY: BOEHNER CRAFTS COMPROMISER IMAGE. Bloomberg's Roxana Tiron reports, "House Speaker John Boehner says he's open to a budget deal with President Barack Obama. He may need Democratic help to push any agreement through his chamber. Pressure from at least 60 small-government House Republicans, most backed by the anti-tax Tea Party, means Boehner must construct a plan for averting the so-called fiscal cliff that can win some Democratic votes. Congress is trying to head off more than $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to begin in January."

TOM COLE: WHO IS THE REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN MAKING WAVES IN 'FISCAL CLIFF' NEGOTIATIONS? Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) made headlines this week when suggested that his Republican colleagues should join with President Obama on a quick "fiscal cliff" fix by voting to extend the Bush tax-rates for everyone but the highest income earners, and leaving the rest of the debate for later, reports ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield. One question likely being asked by Americans watching the 'fiscal cliff' negotiations going on in Congress, though is: Who is Tom Cole? Cole, 63, represents Oklahoma's fourth congressional district in Congress. He was first elected in 2002 and he's about to start his sixth term.

PALESTINIANS WIN STATEHOOD STATUS AT U.N. OVER U.S. OBJECTIONS. The U.N. General Assembly voted yesterday to approve Palestinians' request to be upgraded to a "non-member observer state," defying opposition by the U.S. and Israel reports ABC's Alex Marquardt and Dana Hughes. Before the vote, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the General Assembly that it "is being asked today to issue the birth certificate of Palestine." Of the 193 countries in the General Assembly 138 voted to recognize Palestine. Only nine, including the U.S., voted against it. Another 41 countries abstained.

OBAMA, ROMNEY PLEDGE TO 'STAY IN TOUCH' AT WHITE HOUSE LUNCH. President Obama and former rival Mitt Romney "pledged to stay in touch" after their hour-long lunch at the White House today, their first face-to-face encounter since the election reports ABC's Mary Bruce. "The focus of their discussion was on America's leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future," according to the White House. The former foes lunched on white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad in the private dining room adjacent to the Oval Office. The White House would not detail further the topics of their conversation, but made clear the president did not invite the former GOP nominee to the White House to ask him to play any specific role in the administration.

ODD OBAMA EMAIL SUBJECT LINES DREW HUGE CASH. Remember all those Obama campaign emails and their, shall we say, unusual subject lines? "Hey," wrote Barack Obama in at least five messages during the campaign. "Hell yeah," topped one note from strategist David Axelrod. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, new data released by the campaign show that these and other catchy and casual phrases were hugely successful at getting Obama supporters to open the emails and click through to donate.

CLINTON REFLECTS ON ACCOMPLISHMENTS, CHALLENGES AS SECRETARY OF STATE. Hillary Clinton reflected on her accomplishments as Secretary of State over the last four years in a wide-ranging speech on foreign policy trends on Thursday reports ABC's Dana Hughes and Sarah Parnass. She also touched on what she sees as America's most pressing global challenges in the future, signaling that her time in the Obama administration is drawing to a close. At the top of her remarks given at the Newseum in Washington D.C., Clinton took a moment to address the U.N. resolution passed in the General Assembly just minutes before she spoke that recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state.

ON DECK: FOR SECRETARY OF STATE, G.O.P. PUSHES OLD HAND. The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer reports, "as President Obama's potential nominee for secretary of state, Susan E. Rice, comes under increasing fire, Congressional Republicans appear to be coalescing around a familiar name as an alternative candidate: their current colleague and former presidential foe, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Gone are the criticisms of Mr. Kerry as a waffler who tried to have it both ways on the Iraq war and the caricature of him as a windsurfing symbol of privileged East Coast liberalism. Instead, Mr. Kerry, a Democrat, is depicted as a deeply knowledgeable statesman who would breeze through confirmation on his way to Foggy Bottom."


@peterbakernyt: So looking at data together, the tax-cutters and the spenders haven't fought it out; they've both won, leaving the bill still to be paid.

@mollyesque: Sen.-elect Ted Cruz on Romney's "47%": "I cannot think of an idea more antithetical to American principles."

@mboyle1: Club for Growth won't go after Saxby Chambliss if breaks on taxes but is going after Lindsey Graham:

@llerer: Taking on the cliff-divers by @juliehdavis

@shushwalshe: If you haven't already, drop what you are doing + read this deeply moving piece from @ron_fournier about his son: …