The End Of The World As We Know It, Fiscally Speaking (The Note)

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


  • OBAMA PROMISES ACTION: At his news conference on Wednesday President Obama pledged action to prevent gun violence, ABC's Jake Tapper reported for "World News" and "Good Morning America" Obama said, "I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. We won't prevent them all, but that can't be an excuse not to try." Appointing Vice President Biden to lead a task force on the issue, Obama pushed Congress to ban high-capacity magazines, close the "gun-show loophole" for background checks, and ban what he called "military-style assault weapons." WATCH: and
  • A TEST FOR BOEHNER: HOUSE SET TO VOTE ON 'PLAN B': Today lawmakers will vote on Speaker Boehner's "Plan B" option to avert the tax cliff, ABC's John Parkinson reports. There are several votes expected on amendments related to the "Plan B" option. First, the House votes on the Permanent Tax Relief for Families and Small Businesses Act of 2012 to permanently extend the current tax rates up to $1 million. The second vote will be on the Spending Reduction Act of 2012 - a sequester replacement amendment. Both votes are expected to occur sometime this evening.
  • ONE MORE WAY A CLIFF DIVE COULD AFFECT YOU: If you depend on an early tax refund to help pay for large holiday credit card bills you could be out of luck. The last-minute debate over the fiscal cliff may delay tax refunds in the New Year, ABC News Business Correspondent Richard Davies notes. The IRS is likely to be very busy dealing with changes in the tax code. "There's a high possibility that the tax filing season could be further delayed," says Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block. "We're recommending that people be aware of that," especially you are looking for an early refund to take care of a big credit card bill. "Either if you need to modify your holiday spending or make arrangements to pay bills in February that you would otherwise pay in January," says Pickering.
  • SPEAKING OF THE END OF THE WORLD - OUR COLLEAGUE DEPARTS: ABC News Political Director Amy Walter will be leaving ABC in January to join the prestigious Cook Political Report where she will serve as National Editor. In that role she will continue to provide regular analysis of the issues, trends and events that shape the political environment. It's a homecoming of sorts for Amy, who served as the senior editor of the Cook Political Report from 1997 to 2007. Her steady leadership and sharp analysis of the political landscape has been a tremendous asset to all of us here in the ABC News Political Unit and throughout the network. We will miss her dearly and we wish her all the best.


The Mayan calendar says it happens tomorrow - the end of the world, that is - and at least when it comes to the fiscal cliff, it may be right.

There are now just 12 short days to go before the end of the year, and talks between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama have hit rock bottom.

On "Good Morning America," ABC's Jonathan Karl reported that yesterday officially represented "the low-point" in the negotiations between the two sides with President Obama and Speaker Boehner going public with vastly different messages.

Boehner insisted he would push forward with his so-called "Plan B" approach, which includes extending the Bush-era tax cuts for those making less than $1 million a year and letting them rise for Americans earning more. A vote is expected in the House later today.

Meanwhile, at a White House news conference, the president urged Republican leaders on Capitol Hill to "take the deal" - the Obama administration's version, not the one Boehner is offering.

"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," Obama 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.'"

And by the end of the day, the White House announced that if the "Plan B" legislation passes Congress and reaches the president's desk, he would veto it.

"The Administration will not accept a deal that asks too little of the very wealthiest to increase revenue and instead shifts the burden to the middle class and seniors," according to a White House policy statement.

Boehner was having none of it. In a short statement on Capitol Hill yesterday he scolded Obama: "I hope the president will get serious soon about providing and working with us on a balanced approach," he said.

Apocalypse or not, a doomsday-like grimness appears to have fallen over Washington over the last 24 hours.

"I've been in touch with both sides overnight and these talks right now are going absolutely nowhere," ABC's George Stephanopoulos noted on "Good Morning America" today. "The chances that the country is going to go over that fiscal cliff are really rising."

And Jon Karl's bottom line: "I really see no sign of a big breakthrough anywhere on the horizon."


ABC's AMY WALTER: The fact that pro-gun Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin and Mark Warner are signaling compromise is important, but it's not nearly as critical as getting some Republicans to speak up - and out. And the biggest impediment to that is the primary process. While there are plenty of Republicans who could win a general election as a pro-gun control candidate, they could never make it out of a primary holding that viewpoint. The real test for whether the NRA is truly in the mood to compromise isn't whether they'll give Obama and Democrats a pass - it's if they'll stay away from punishing Republicans in primaries.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: The runway's getting crowded. Even if you assume the fiscal cliff is the last of the big standoffs over taxes and spending for a while (yeah, right) the early phase of President Obama's second term is filling up fast. Gun control now joins immigration reform and climate legislation among the suck-all-oxygen-out-of-Washington priorities with loud voices clamoring for attention. That puts a premium on prioritizing for Obama - and as yesterday's news conference shows, it's tempting if not inevitable to let public fervor for one push to spill over into another.

LIEBERMAN CRITICIZES COLLEAGUES' PARTISANSHIP. In the latest installment of ABC/Yahoo! video series "Spinners and Winners," outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman tells ABC's Jonathan Karl that the last two years have been the least productive of his 24 in the Senate. "We are exactly where our first president George Washington warned us not to go, where members of Congress would put the interest of their party or political faction, as Washington described it, higher than the interest of our country," says Lieberman. WATCH:

TODAY IN THE SENATE: The Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing on the Benghazi attack and the lessons learned, with William Burns; Deputy Secretary of State; and Thomas Nides; Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, ABC's Sunlen Miller reports. The late Sen. Daniel Inouye will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. At 10 a.m. there will be a ceremony with remarks from Congressional Leadership preceding the laying of wreaths. The public viewing is from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET.


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

ABC/POST POLL: AMERICANS OPPOSE INVOLVEMENT IN SYRIA. ABC's Julie Phelan reports on the latest ABC/Washington Post poll: In general, 73 percent say the U.S. military should not get involved in the conflict. But almost exactly as many say they'd support U.S. military involvement if Syria were to lose control of its chemical weapons, as do 63 percent if the Assad regime used these banned weapons against its own people-an action that Barack Obama has warned would "cross a red line." Similarly, if Syrian forces were to attack nearby U.S. allies, 69 percent say they'd support U.S. military involvement. And regardless of any such specific provocation, 62 percent say they'd favor creation of a no-fly zone, provided no ground troops were used. (That may reflect the success of the no-fly zone over Libya, general preference for air vs. ground combat, or some combination of both.)

BENGHAZI REPORT PROMPTS RESIGNATIONS. After the State Department's internal report on the Benghazi attack found security was "grossly inadequate" and "was not a high priority" in Washington, ABC's Martha Raddatz reported for "World News" that State Department officials have resigned under pressure: Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell, his deputy Charlene Lamb, and an official with the Bureau of Near East Affairs. Meanwhile John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador who served under president Bush, has alleged that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has faked a concussion to avoid appearing before Congress to discuss the report. WATCH:

STATE DEPT. ON THE RESIGNATIONS. ABC's Dana Hughes and Martha Raddatz report: "The ARB identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. "The secretary has accepted Eric Boswell's decision to resign as assistant secretary for Diplomatic Security, effective immediately. The other three individuals have been relieved of their current duties. All four individuals have been placed on administrative leave pending further action." A State Department official confirmed to ABC News that all four officials remained employees of the State Department and had only been relieved of their current duties, pending further review. A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that along with Eric Boswell, who is the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, as well as an official with the Bureau of Near East Affairs, had also resigned "under pressure." Nuland did not specify any other resignations beyond Boswell's in the statement.

TAPPER TO OBAMA: 'WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN' ON GUN VIOLENCE? ABC's Jake Tapper asked the president, at Wednesday's briefing, where he's been on the gun issue during his first term. Tapper: "It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008, in your first term and in 2012 not to talk about gun violence. You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then Senator Biden put into place, but you didn't do much about it. This is not the first issue-the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?" Obama: "I've been president of the United States, dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don't think I've been on vacation." WATCH:

OBAMA TO BUSINESS LEADERS: BOEHNER COULD LEAD US OFF THE CLIFF. ABC's Jake Tapper reports: 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 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.

HUELSKAMP: IF I VOTED FOR BOEHNER'S CLIFF PLAN, I'D DESERVE A PRIMARY. Conservative freshman GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp warned at a press conference outside the Capitol on Wednesday that House Speaker John Boehner's fiscal-cliff "Plan B" isn't conservative enough for Republican voters. "If I went home and told them, after I took a pledge not to raise taxes," that he had voted for Boehner's plan, said Huelskamp, R-Kan., he would "deserve primary opposition." Then again, perhaps Huelskamp is still bitter over Boehner's move to oust him and two other freshman Republicans from their top committee assignments

SENATORS WATCH 'LINCOLN' WITH SPIELBERG, DANIEL DAY-LEWIS. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: The Senate took an official recess from floor debate for a few hours Wednesday to screen the movie "Lincoln" in the Capitol Visitors Center within the Capitol complex. Appearing with director Steven Spielberg and actor Daniel Day-Lewis on Capitol Hill this evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that he hopes the message of the movie with resonate with senators and the American people. "I hope everybody who shared his anti-political mood will go out there and see Lincoln. The movie portrays a nobility of politics in exactly the right way," Reid said.

HOUSE DEMS URGE TOUGHER GUN LAWS. ABC's John Parkinson reports: House Democrats today called on Congress immediately to enact tougher gun legislation, particularly a ban on so-called "assault weapons" and high-capacity ammunition magazines. "No words are adequate to console the families of these children and others who were taken from us in an act of senseless, unspeakable violence," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Here in Congress, what we need now are not more words. What we need is action." … Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, arguably the Democrats' fiercest advocate for tougher gun laws, called on Republicans "to join us in supporting our efforts to reduce gun violence in America."

NRA SUPPORT HAS BEEN SLIPPING. The Washington Post's Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger report: "Months before the massacre in Newtown, Conn., put the National Rifle Association on the defensive, the powerful gun rights group faced an unexpected problem. One of its most loyal Democratic friends in Congress was leading a rebellion against an NRA effort to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress, a cause viewed by Democrats as a political sideshow that had nothing to do with gun rights. 'This, my friends, is not a position I relish,' Rep. John D. Dingell (Mich.) wrote in an anguished letter urging fellow gun lovers to reject the NRA's position. … with the horror of the Newtown school shootings forcing gun control back onto the national agenda, a decline in the NRA's traditional bipartisan strength provides gun-control advocates with what they see as their best prospects in nearly two decades."

BRADY CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES YOUTUBE ADS WITH VICTIMS' FAMILIES. Apparently not tied to the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, the nation's leading gun-control-advocacy group has launched a new series of YouTube public service announcements as part of a "long-planned public-awareness campaign." series, "We Are Better Than This," features celebrities speaking straight to camera. Perhaps more significantly, families of mass-shooting victims will appear in the videos. In the first three videos, Brady staffer and Virginia Tech shooting survivor Colin Goddard appears, as do Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Redfield Ghawi was killed in the Aurora, Colo., mass shooting in July.

ROBERT BORK DIES AT 85. ABC's Ariane de Vogue reports: Judge Robert H. Bork, one of the chief conservative intellectuals of the law, who forever changed the nature of Supreme Court confirmation hearings, died Wednesday morning of heart disease, according to his son, Robert H. Bork Jr. Bork was 85 years old. "Robert Bork was one of the most influential legal scholars of the past 50 years. His impact on legal thinking in the fields of antitrust and constitutional law was profound and lasting. More important for the final accounting, he was a good man and a loyal citizen. May he rest in peace," Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a statement. President Reagan nominated Bork, who was at the time a federal judge, to the Supreme Court in 1987 to fill the seat of the more moderate Lewis F. Powell Jr. Bork's confirmation hearing ignited a fiery constitutional debate as Bork outlined his conservative views. His nomination failed in the Senate.

GINSBURG REMEMBERS BORK. More from ABC's Ariane de Vogue: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served with Judge Robert Bork on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, praised her former colleague in a statement released Wednesday night. "I benefitted constantly from his bright mind, engaging wit, and unfailing civility. Whether we agreed or disagreed, conversation with him stimulated me to think harder and write with greater clarity." She said she has quoted "time and again" on one of his observations "Judges and lawyers live on the slippery slope of analogies; they are not supposed to ski it to the bottom." Ginsburg said his commentary as a scholar and jurist, particularly in the fields of Antitrust and Constitutional Law, will endure, both to guide and challenge."


HANABUSA SEEKING SENATE SEAT. The AP reports from Honolulu: "U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will apply for the Senate vacancy created by the death of Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, her spokesman said Wednesday. Hanabusa, 61, is the early favorite for the post, having won the endorsement of Inouye, a fellow Democrat. Inouye said in a letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie dated Monday that his last wish was for Hanabusa to succeed him. Inouye died that day from respiratory complications. He was 88."

ISRAEL BACKERS BLAST HAGEL AS DEFENSE PICK. Former Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel is reportedly a favorite to be nominated as the next secretary of defense, and some conservative Israel backers aren't happy about it. The Republican Jewish Coalition has aired a list of grievances against Hagel, and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, who also leads the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), lambasted Hagel in an editorial in his magazine, citing Hagel's "anti-Israel, pro-appeasement-of-Iran bona fides," and, "record of consistent hostility to Israel over the last decade." ECI will also air a TV ad opposing Hagel on cable in the D.C. area.

ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE PILES ON. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin reports that Abe Foxman, head of the anti-Semitism-fighting group Anti-Defamation League, emails more criticism of Hagel: "Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community's friends of Israel. His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling. The sentiments he's expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter."


-GROUP RUNS ADS AGAINST HAGEL AS DEFENSE PICK. William Kristol's group Emergency Committee for Israel will air a TV ad on cable in Washington, D.C. today and tomorrow criticizing former Nebraska GOP senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama's likely pick as the next secretary of Defense. Hagel is "not a responsible option" for the Defense post, ECI warns. WATCH:


@kararowland: Sen. Bob Corker in heated Q&A with State witnesses: "You were aware of the security issues there … we've read the cables"

@TheFix: What the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban tells us about the future for gun control legislation. Terrific piece.

@j_strong: Good piece RT @SteveKornacki: The right's coming breakup with Hillary

@mikememoli: Overlooked: Hotline's @QTMcCord is on Twitter

@markknoller: The folks at @NASA say the Mayan Apocalypse is a crock. Boy will their faces be red if we hit oblivion tomorrow. …