Obama, McConnell Hold Bourbon-Less Summit (The Note)

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • OBAMA PLANS TO NOMINATE ASHTON CARTER AS NEXT DEFENSE SECRETARY: President Obama intends to nominate Ashton Carter to replace Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary, according to a source familiar with the decision. ABC's JONATHAN KARL and JEFF ZELENY report that an announcement is likely by the end of the week. Sen. John McCain, who will become chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he does not anticipate Carter will face a tough confirmation fight. "He's not controversial," McCain told ABC News. "He's qualified and he's the last man standing, but he's been around long enough to know he will have little or no voice in the crucial decisions on national security." McCain said he wouldn't object to the hearings starting before Republicans take control of the Senate next month, but that the hearings would likely focus less on Carter's qualifications than on President Obama's strategy on ISIS. http://abcn.ws/1vGrN9n
  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama has a rare private meeting with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at the White House this afternoon. Earlier, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes, the president delivers remarks at the Business Roundtable. Later, he speaks at the annual Tribal Nations Conference. In the evening, the president meets privately at the White House with Combatant Commanders and Military Leadership, and hosts a private dinner in their honor. Also today, First Lady Michelle Obama unveils this year's White House holiday decorations.
  • GOP RALLIES AROUND SYMBOLIC VOTE TO STOP OBAMA IMMIGRATION PLAN: Call it the Republican venting plan. The House is set to vote Thursday on legislation to effectively undo President Obama's executive action on immigration. It's a proposal put forward by Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Florida, which allows Republicans to voice their outrage, without sparking a government shutdown. "That's the beauty of this bill," Yoho told ABC's JEFF ZELENY. "There's no threat of a government shutdown." The measure allows Republicans to cast a vote of disapproval on the president's executive action, but to move ahead with a short-term spending bill to keep the government open when it runs out of money next week. Speaker John Boehner said most of his fellow Republicans accepted the political reality that their hands are tied - for now, at least - in how they respond to the president's unilateral action on immigration. Two years ago, Yoho was one of the conservative Republicans who voted against Speaker Boehner. http://abcn.ws/12lyvG4


ABC's RICK KLEIN: It's getting late early around here, to slightly misquote a baseball poet. Politico on Wednesday is reporting that the entire Republican field's decision to hold off a bit on announcing presidential bids, and of Hillary Clinton's expected move to wait until "well after January 1? before forming an exploratory committee. You can't blame Republicans for not being anxious to jump into a field that's so jumbled that a new CNN poll shows Mitt Romney and Ben Carson running 1-2. And you can't blame Clinton's camp for not wanting to expand the already considerable target on her back. But don't let the timelines fool you: The campaign is already well underway, on both sides. In that sense, to refer back to that poet, nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded.

ABC's JEFF ZELENY: When President Obama welcomes Mitch McConnell into the Oval Office for a private meeting this afternoon, we're told there are no plans for Bourbon to be served. So what's on the agenda? It's a chance for the two to meet alone for the first time since McConnell was elevated to become the next Senate Majority Leader. Both men have much to gain from trying to foster at least some semblance of a productive relationship. Yes, McConnell once said his biggest goal was to make Obama a one-term president. And yes, Obama has often privately and publicly denounced McConnell. But the two have plans to talk taxes and trade, aides say, as well as other potential areas of agreement. McConnell said he wants to have a responsible governing majority and Obama wants to bolster his legacy, so this meeting will be an early test to see what's possible - without Bourbon.


U.S., CUBA WORKING ON SOLUTION TO FREE AMERICAN ALAN GROSS FROM CUBAN JAIL. Today is the 5th anniversary of U.S. government contractor Alan Gross's arrest for espionage in Cuba, and ABC news has learned exclusive details about the 65-year-old's frail physical condition and his even worse mental situation. Last spring it was reported that Gross had lost more than 100 pounds, but today sources who have visited with Gross in the last week told ABC's JIM AVILA and SERENA MARSHALL that his health has vastly deteriorated. He has lost all but one of his front teeth, can barely walk because of hip damage, and is blind in one eye. Gross is no longer accepting visits or food from the U.S. Interest Section in Havana and refuses medical or dental care from the Cuban military hospital where he is being held. Because of mobility issues stemming from his deteriorating health, he stays in his room at the military hospital 24 hours a day. He is kept in a 10 by 20 foot dorm room with 2 other prisoners who speak no English. http://abcn.ws/1BbV5QI


THE SECRETS OF THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS ROOM: Take a behind-the-scenes look at the White House briefing room with ABC's DEVIN DWYER, MARY BRUCE and JONATHAN KARL. http://abcn.ws/1tJdVpv



SOAP OPERA PRODUCER IS NOW AN AMBASSADOR AND JOHN MCCAIN ISN'T HAPPY. The Senate confirmed a producer of the soap opera "The Bold and The Beautiful" to serve as ambassador to Hungary, and Sen. John McCain is not happy about it, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. Prior to the vote, McCain, R-Ariz., went on a tirade about how Colleen Bradley Bell, a soap opera producer and bundler for President Obama's campaigns, is "unqualified" to represent the United States as an ambassador to Hungary. "I am not against political appointees … I understand how the game is played, but here we are, a nation [Hungary] that is on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dictator getting in bed with Vladimir Putin and we're going to send the producer of 'The Bold and The Beautiful' as the ambassador," McCain said. http://abcn.ws/1vGHb5O

NOTED: WHITE HOUSE DEFENDS NEW AMBASSADOR. In an exchange with ABC's JONATHAN KARL, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest defended the pick for her "distinguished private sector career." http://abcn.ws/15O3qgt

SEN. GILLIBRAND RENEWS PUSH FOR SENATE VOTE ON MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT. A determined Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is making yet another legislative push to overhaul the way the military handles sexual assault cases by removing the chain of command from the prosecutions. Joined by a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues, Gillibrand announced that she and other senators are asking for the adjudication measure to be voted on as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act this month. The renewed push comes less than a year after Gillibrand's measure failed in the Senate. ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ and BRIAN THUROW report the proposal, which would replace commanders with independent trained military lawyers in deciding whether to prosecute the accused, now has the support of 55 senators, including prominent Republicans like Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky. http://abcn.ws/1HWGRFf

NFL EXEC CHOKES UP IN EMOTIONAL SENATE HEARING ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. At an emotional congressional hearing on domestic violence in major sports leagues in the wake of the Ray Rice case, top sports executives testified that they had grown up with battered moms. Troy Vincent, a former NFL player and current executive vice president of football operations, recounted his own experience with domestic violence, his voice breaking and tears welling in his eyes, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. His voice broke again as he described his pride in playing professional football and the "privilege, not a right" of wearing an NFL uniform. He told senators that former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice did not mislead NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as the commissioner initially suggested. He also said that former FBI director Robert Mueller's NFL-hired investigation into the league's handling of Rice's case is expected "at any time." Representatives from the major sports leagues-NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA-and their players' unions were grilled by senators on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on their policies concerning domestic violence and its punishment. http://abcn.ws/1tBAgq6

WHAT TOP REPUBLICANS PLAN TO DO WITH THEIR NEW MAJORITY IN CONGRESS. The top brass of the Republican Party spent Monday and Tuesday plotting ways to twist President Obama's arm while outlining the new majority agenda they intend to concentrate on come January, when the 114th Congress takes its place. According to ABC's NOAH WEILAND, a two-day, invitation-only conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal featured a pairing of top executives and political leaders. In a series of interviews with Journal editors, Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., discussed the foreign policy and economic initiatives they hope to impart to their colleagues in their new majority, while Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered an urgent plea to President Obama to pass comprehensive tax reform. http://abcn.ws/1FKKytB

HOW MICHELLE BACHMANN IS SAYING GOODBYE TO CONGRESS. Retiring Rep. Michelle Bachmann is saying goodbye to Congress in the most contemporary of ways - through listicles, tweets and videos, including one that involved her rapping. Bachmann, R-Minn., looked back this week on her eight years in Congress in a BuzzFeed post titled, "16 Things I'll Miss About Being in Congress." ABC's KIRSTEN APPLETON takes a look at the list. http://abcn.ws/1vf1m5V


BIZARRE CHRISTMAS CARDS FROM POLITICIANS THROUGH THE YEARS. The forced smile on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's face isn't the most bizarre thing a politician has put on a Christmas card. Though Blair may be the latest to earn himself a less-than-favorable hashtag on Twitter as a result of the awkward card that was anonymously shared by a recipient on Monday, America has had its fair share of politicians who have tried to show their lighter side during the holidays - with varying degrees of success. ABC's MEGHAN KENEALLY takes a look at other bizarre Christmas cards from politicians over the years. http://abcn.ws/1AdgLZj


?@StevenTDennis: Rob Portman set to be a force in new GOP majority http://blogs.rollcall.com/wgdb/robportman-a-senate-gop-mvp-decides-to-stick-around/ …

@Goldfarb: Republican voters change their minds about a path to citizenship http://wapo.st/1AfzSlF

@sbg1: Will Obama go to war with another of his own Pentagon chiefs? @MichaelCrowley on Ash Carter http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/ashton-carter-secretary-of-defense-113283.html …

@MysteryPollster: HuffPollster: Polling & early voting look bleak for Landrieu. Gallup finds a post-election party ID bump for GOP http://huff.to/1ykdLLN

@politicalwire: Sen. Mary Landrieu says Democrats abandoned her: "You know, they just walked away from this race." http://politicalwire.com/2014/12/03/landrieu-says-democrats-abandoned-her/ …