PM Note: Rice Withdraws, Sandy Aid Headed to Space, Boehner and Obama Meeting

"Ifs and buts are like candy and nuts. If that were the case, every day would be Christmas." - John Boehner.

History Suggests Ignore Lawmakers Who Threaten to Work Through Christmas -

Susan Rice Withdraws From Secretary of State Consideration - Tells Obama - I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly - to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities." -

Her letter -

Tapper - The president is all but certain to nominate Kerry as Secretary of State, sources say, though no official decision has been made. The position of Secretary of Defense is not as far along in the process, but sources say former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., seems to have an edge right now over other possible candidates such as former undersecretary of defense for policy Michelle Flournoy and deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. The CIA director slot, sources say, will go to either acting director Michael Morrell or White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan.

Kerry Nomination Could Create Musical Chairs in Senate (cc: Scott Brown) - (Hartfield)

Fiscal Cliff - Right Now, Boehner is at the White House With Obama -

Obama Interviewed by Jim Gardner of WPVI - : (People) have good reason to be skeptical. What we've seen for too long in Washington is a tendency for politicians to put their jobs ahead of the jobs of the American people, to think about the next election instead of the next generation… What I've said is job number one for Congress, this is an area where we shouldn't have to compromise because everybody says they agree, let's extend middle class tax cuts… and that would cover 98 percent of Americans. They would know that next year their taxes would not go up one single dime.

Sending Sandy Money to … Space - From Jonathan Karl - The Obama administration's $60-billion emergency aid package for victims of superstorm Sandy is now caught in the crossfire over the "fiscal cliff," with some critics questioning why millions of dollars are directed to areas far from the epicenter of the storm. The request, which still needs the approval of Congress, includes billions in urgently needed aide. But it also features some surprising items: $23 million for tree plantings to "help reduce flood effects, protect water sources, decrease soil erosion and improve wildlife habitat" in forested areas touched by Sandy; $2 million to repair roof damage at Smithsonian buildings in Washington that pre-dates the storm; $4 million to repair sand berms and dunes at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; and $41 million for clean-up and repairs at eight military bases along the storm's path, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The FBI is seeking $4 million to replace "vehicles, laboratory and office equipment and furniture," while Customs and Border Protection wants $2.4 million to replace "destroyed or damaged vehicles, including mobile X-Ray machines."

Republican Rorschach: GOP Either 'Won' or 'Failed the Nation' - Republicans have either "won" or "failed the nation," depending on which report you read today. It's a Rorschach test for Republicans as they stare down the fiscal cliff. The two views speak to an existential debate for the party as it seeks to rebound from November's electoral loss and the growing possibility that party leaders will acquiesce to Democrats - at least for now - on the issue of tax rates. Both arguments - one made by a mainstream journalist and the other by a conservative blogger - have more to do with the general state of politics than with the fiscal cliff, taxes and entitlements. In the heat of talks and in the midst of potentially breaking a pledge to never allow tax rates to go up, many Republicans would see allowing them to go up as a loss.

Obama to Be Sworn In Twice… Again - With video, audio for the first two times -

Chris Lehane on What Mitt Could Have Learned from Kobe

Brawl Erupts in Ukraine's Parliament - (Kirit Radia)

Obamacare Exchange Deadline Looms - Shush Walshe reports: All of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," doesn't go into effect until 2014, but states are required to set up their own health care exchanges or leave it to the federal government to step in by next year. The deadline for the governors' decisions is Friday. The health insurance exchanges are one of the key stipulations of the new health care law. They will offer consumers an Internet-based marketplace for purchasing private health insurance plans. But the president's signature health care plan has become so fraught with politics that whether governors agreed to set up the exchanges has fallen mostly along party lines. Such partisanship is largely symbolic because if a state opts not to set up the exchange, the Department of Health and Human Services will do it for them as part of the federal program. That would not likely be well-received by Republican governors, either, but the law forces each state's chief executive to make a decision one way or the other. Here's what it looks like in all 50 states and the District of Columbia:

Keep CALM and Watch On - Sarah Parnass reports: Three years after it was first introduced in the Senate and two years after President Obama signed it, the CALM Act finally went into effect today, saving the eardrums of TV viewers across the nation from blaring commercials.

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