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Is a Fiscal Cliff Deal on the Way?

President Obama; photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Obama speaks after the lighting of the National Christmas Tree last week. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The negotiations are starting to get serious.

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner huddled privately Sunday to outline their positions and to find middle ground on tax cuts and on ways to avert going over the fiscal cliff next month.

No news from the meeting leaked to the press, which is potentially a signal that the men are making progress and that their teams don’t feel the need to frame the debate on their terms. Instead, their respective offices released identical statements offering no specifics:

“This afternoon, the president and Speaker Boehner met at the White House to discuss efforts to resolve the fiscal cliff. We’re not reading out details of the conversation, but the lines of communication remain open.”

As we reported here Friday, the request to exclude senators and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came from Boehner.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker said on Fox News Sunday that things are pointing toward compromise on one of the thorniest issues. “There’s a growing body of folks who are willing to look at the rate on the top 2 percent,” the Tennessee senator said. And GOP Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he thinks a bill ending tax cuts for the highest earners would “carry” if it ever made its way to the House floor.

A new Politico/George Washington University poll continued to show support for higher taxes: 60 percent of respondents support raising taxes on households that earn more than $250,000 a year, and 64 percent want to raise taxes on large corporations.

As the Washington Post reported Monday, lawmakers aren’t waiting for the final parameters of the deal to get started:

If Obama and Boehner can agree on substance, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) are already at work on a legislative structure.

“We’re trying to get ahead of the curve here…to answer a lot of these technical questions about frameworks, guidelines — for both tax and entitlements,” Baucus said.

Policy aides say both sides want to avoid the constraints of the budget reconciliation process and are instead focused on drafting two relatively simple bills. One would instruct the tax-writing committees to undertake an overhaul of the tax code and the other would order up legislation to improve the solvency of Medicare and Social Security.

Those measures are likely to contain little more than savings targets and some principles to guide work next year, aides said. Trying to get too specific would not only take time but could kill any chance of passage.

But it’s only Dec. 10. Washington is preparing for many more days of discussions before anything gets presented to Congress for consideration.

And don’t forget, a fight will begin anew next year when, because no budget has been passed, Congress will be forced to pass another continuing resolution to keep the government funded.


The Supreme Court will hear two cases involving same-sex marriage this year: one regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows the federal government not to recognize marriage benefits for gay spouses, and the other on California’s Proposition 8, which flipped the state to outlaw same-sex marriage. In either case, the court’s decisions this term will be momentous.

Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal explained the differences between the two cases with Margaret Warner on Friday’s NewsHour.

The court has a wide range of wiggle room when it takes on Proposition 8, she said:

The court could simply affirm the lower federal appellate court, which would leave that ruling in place, the Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. It would only affect California. It was a narrow ruling. It wouldn’t affect any other state or states’ laws.

The court could decide that Proposition 8 does violate the federal Constitution … If the court said that the 14th Amendment does prohibit California from defining marriage as between a man and a woman, then other state laws would certainly be at risk, other than just California.

The second case, on the Defense of Marriage Act, involves Edith Windsor of New York, whose partner died. Windsor brought the case because she believes she shouldn’t have to pay federal estate tax on the estate her spouse left her.

Watch here or below:

We also summarized the NewsHour’s past coverage on the road this issue took to the high court.

In the court’s announcement Friday, it didn’t comment on eight other same-sex marriage-related cases the justices had reviewed. The court could hold those cases until after it rules on the two cases it granted.

Coyle said she expects the court to hear arguments for the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases in late March, about the time they heard Affordable Care Act arguments last year.


The NewsHour and public media partners this year have been exploring politics and the issues in a new Battleground Dispatches series. Airing Thursday night was a story about how the city of Norfolk, Va., deals with complicated coastal flooding concerns, especially in the wake of super-storm Sandy.

The project’s coordinating producer, Mike Melia, this time stepped in front of the camera as a special correspondent, teaming up with NewsHour’s Michael Fritz for the piece.

Watch the report here or below:


  • When Mr. Obama visits its facility in Redford, Mich., on Monday, Daimler [will announce](
    http://www.freep.com/article/20121210/BUSINESS01/121210006/During-Obama-visit-Daimler-to-unveil-plan-to-expand-U-S-jobs-production?odyssey=nav%7Chead) new investments that will lead to more U.S. jobs, the Free Press reported.

  • Freshman Rep. Jeff Landry lost his seat over the weekend as Rep. Charles Boustany prevailed in their Louisiana runoff. The Republicans were forced to run against each other in a member-vs.-member race because of redistricting.

  • The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe breaks down the next stage of the debt ceiling.

  • Mr. Obama’s finance team will accept $1 million corporate donations for the inauguration.

  • House Democrats have sued to stop the filibuster.

  • Monday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA looks at what $16 trillion, the current national debt estimate, could buy.

  • Dan Froomkin writes that the 2012 campaign’s most under-reported story was the Republican Party’s lopsided lack of telling the truth. He cites moderate think-tankers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein.

  • Jason Zengerle of New York Magazine calls the aftermath of Mr. Obama’s re-election effort a success in public relations, shifting views of the campaign from “joyless slog” to nerd glorification.

  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told rural America that it is becoming less relevant.

  • The Atlantic’s Molly Ball offers some words of warning to progressives.

  • Ron Paul supporters are irked by Boehner pulling support for libertarian congressmen in House leadership positions.

  • Newark mayor and Twitter’s Democratic folk hero Cory Booker says he’ll announce within two weeks if he’ll challenge the re-election campaign of New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie next fall or consider a 2014 Senate bid.

  • Roll Call has a handy list of all the chairmen and ranking members for the next session of Congress.

  • Former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who voted for Mr. Obama this fall, announces he has switched parties. This stokes speculation he could challenge GOP Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.

  • The White House has joined Pinterest. Here is the account.

  • Chris Cillizza kicks off the 2014 Senate retirement guessing game.

  • Mitt Romney tells Manny Pacquiao that he ran for president and lost, just before the Pac-man was knocked out cold.

  • The White House asked, and Americans talked about Twinkies.


  • Syndicated columnist Mark Shields calls the Republican brand an albatross, and New York Times columnist David Brooks says Mr. Obama has the upper hand in fiscal talks.

Watch their weekly NewsHour segment here or below.

  • Hari Sreenivasan talked to the guys about the sport of politics and the politics of sport in this week’s Doubleheader. Watch to see if they got their Heisman picks right.

  • Presidential historian Michael Beschloss (@beschlossDC) walked Gwen Ifill through three photos of presidents with enigmatic back stories.

Watch the segment here or below.

  • Paul Revere’s resurrection on Twitter serves historians’ interests, too, NewsHour’s Katelyn Polantz writes. She profiled four social media accounts of colonial leaders who tweet in real time.


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

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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