President Obama, Congressional Leadership Get Down to Business

BY Christina Bellantoni and Katelyn Polantz  November 16, 2012 at 9:39 AM EDT

President Obama; photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

President Obama walks across the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters.

The Morning Line

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will probably be all smiles when White House staff ushers in photographers for a quick minute or two Friday morning.

But when the press is shown the door, the real negotiating begins. With the election more than a week in the past and each party coming to the Roosevelt Room with a different interpretation of what message the voters sent to the nation about its fiscal future, there are plenty of pathways the discussions can take.

An administration official told the Morning Line that Mr. Obama is looking for “common ground,” emphasizing the words “agree,” “compromise” and “work with.”

“The president will continue to urge Congress to act on one thing we all agree on — ensuring that taxes don’t go up on 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses at the end of the year,” the official said, punctuating White House press secretary Jay Carney’s re-insistence Thursday that Mr. Obama will not sign anything that keeps the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2 percent of earners.

“He will be make clear that he is willing to compromise and do tough things to get this done, but only in the context of a balanced approach that also asks more in revenues from the wealthiest Americans,” the official said.

Mr. Obama will also keep up his public outreach by hosting a closed-door meeting with civic leaders such as the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous of the NAACP and groups including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Council of La Raza and AARP.

The backdrop for the day from Congress’ perspective? Everyone seems to be trying to get their members in line for compromise.

Roll Call’s Humberto Sanchez reported that Sen. Reid told progressive members of his caucus that a letter organized by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, “would be a bad idea because it would give the impression that Democrats were not united on how to address the fiscal cliff.”

From his story:

The concern was that the letter would take the focus off of Republicans who are being pressured by Democrats and President Obama to allow a raft of tax cuts to expire for households making more than $250,000 a year. Democrats want to extend tax cuts for the those making less.

The letter, which has yet to been sent, calls on Obama to strike a deal on the fiscal cliff that has a 1-1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts. As of Wednesday night, it had at least 13 signatures, sources familiar with the letter said. A draft of the letter seen by Roll Call did not include the names of the other signatories.

Supporters of the letter hope to give Democratic leaders increased leverage going in to a meeting at the White House with Republican leaders by making clear the position of some of the caucus on how much new revenue the president should demand.

Don’t forget, as Jonathan Weisman reported last week, that Rep. Boehner tested his members on a conference call by asking them to avoid a standoff. Few objected in the boisterous ways they had on past calls.

“Members on the call, subdued and dark, murmured words of support — even a few who had been a thorn in the speaker’s side for much of this Congress,” Weisman reported.

On Friday, Weisman followed up with a piece on the Gang of Eight’s “bottom-up” approach to finding some solution to averting the fiscal cliff.

But since Congress is famous for pushing it to the edge and with weeks of session before the deadline to avoid automatic budget cuts, it’s way too early to know if any of these signals point to actual agreement.

GRADE THE CAMPAIGN, FIND YOUR MATCH

Enjoyed the Political Party ID quiz we launched during the conventions? The Pew Research Center and NewsHour bring you another classic interactive: the Election Report Card quiz.

Pew’s Andy Kohut sat down with Hari Sreenivasan to explain it.

Take the quiz here.

Watch here or below:

PATRIOTIC MILLIONAIRES

A group of high-income individuals returned to Washington this week to lobby Congress and the White House to impose higher taxes on the rich.

The Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, a group that includes entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and top executives at major U.S. companies, is asking lawmakers to end the tax cuts and restore the marginal rate they paid in income taxes under President Bill Clinton’s administration. The change would apply to themselves and others earning $1 million or more a year.

The group’s influence remains to be seen, but its high-profile nature adds an interesting twist to a highly partisan debate.

The group held meetings with senior Obama administration officials and about a dozen lawmakers Wednesday and Thursday.

In a briefing Thursday with reporters, some members of the group described themselves as having middle-class backgrounds. Others related a time when they or their families benefited from a government-financed health care or education program. They said the additional taxes the rich pay toward supporting these programs will help create opportunities for all Americans.

The group, which numbers about 200, said restoring the marginal tax rate to 39.6 percent from its current 35 percent wouldn’t stop them from investment or other business decisions that could that could create jobs, an argument Boehner has offered in opposition to increasing taxes while the economy still is recovering.

Jeffrey Brown chatted with “Patriotic Millionaire” and venture capitalist Garrett Gruener when the group visited Capitol Hill in November 2011.

LINE ITEMS

  • Republican governors were not happy about Mitt Romney’s comments about “gifts” that President Obama gave to Latinos, African-Americans, women and young people.

  • Romney’s latest provocative quote: “I spoke with President Clinton the day before yesterday, he called and spent 30 minutes chatting with me. He said a week out I thought you were going to win. And he said, but the hurricane happened, and it gave the president a chance to be presidential, and to look bipartisan, and you know he got a little more momentum…”

  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., missed Thursday’s congressional briefing on the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, despite being one of the leading critics of the Obama administration’s handling of the situation. His office later said he’d been given bad information about the timing.

  • John Dickerson spoke with Jim Messina for Slate to get another insider post-mortem on how President Obama won re-election.

  • Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn delivered a speech this week saying America and conservatives have reached a “Valley Forge Moment” in which they must lead on fiscal issues to preserve the country.

  • GOP Rep. Dan Lungren of California was officially declared defeated. Democrat Ami Bera will be coming to Congress.

  • But other outstanding races are embroiled in the potential for legal battles and recounts. Politico rounds them up.

  • Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker hasn’t decided yet if he’ll run for governor against Republican Chris Christie in New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy has delayed his decision, the Star-Ledger reported.

  • Here’s our requisite David Petraeus affair update: The Washington Post profiles Paula Broadwell. The Los Angeles Times garners the scoop of all scoops in this saga, publishing the shirtless FBI agent’s shirtless photo. And for the record: Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he did not date Jill Kelley’s twin sister.

  • The Achieve Act is a modified version of the Dream Act floated by Republicans in Congress, reports the Huffington Post.

  • Democratic leadership elections are shaking out.

  • Al Gore did a Reddit AMA on his climate change campaigns. And no, he’s not yet ready to talk about his 2000 campaign.

  • The power balance in the New York state house may be unclear — and split — this session.

  • Republicans are a party without an elder statesman and in need of Romney leaving for good, Chris Cillizza writes in the Washington Post.

  • Terry McAuliffe has hired Democratic campaign veterans Robby Mook and Levar Stoney to lead his Virginia gubernatorial campaign.

  • The Chattanooga Times Free Press finds the salacious divorce trial transcripts of Tennessee GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais. They report on affairs and his support for his ex-wife to have abortions, positions out of sync with his social conservative political background.

  • A Des Moines alternative weekly newspaper asks: GOP Rep. Steve King, hot or not?

  • Retiring Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio trashed the GOP. Now he’s giving away booze.

  • Vice President Biden meets Leslie Knopes on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.”

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • NewsHour production assistant Alex Bruns looks at the changes face of Congress after more women earned seats.

  • Kaiser Health News examines the deadlines for states to make decisions about a key provision in the Affordable Care Act.

  • Margaret Warner blogs from refugee camps in Turkey, and Larisa Epatko outlines the complex relationship between that country and Syria.

  • Ray Suarez pens a piece for Foreign Affairs on the rise of Latino voting groups.

  • Do you want to know all the different laws about marijuana across the country, told in slide show form? Well now you do. Tune in to Friday’s NewsHour for more.

  • The foreign affairs beat breaks down China’s new leadership.

  • Miles O’Brien tells us we need at least eight hours of sleep. And here’s a video of Miles swimming with dolphins.

TOP TWEETS

Cassie M. Chew contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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