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Obama Dispatches Officials for Fiscal Cliff Talks

President Obama; photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Appearing with middle-class families at the White House, President Obama delivers remarks about the fiscal cliff. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

The Morning Line

The White House will dispatch Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Director of Legislative Affairs Rob Nabors to Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet with congressional leaders in an effort to bridge differences on tax rates, spending cuts and entitlement programs that continue to hold up a deal on the fiscal cliff.

On Tuesday, both President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner gave no indication publicly that there had been any movement in their respective positions.

During an event featuring middle-class Americans at the White House, Mr. Obama again urged lawmakers to raise tax rates on families making more than $250,000 a year.

“If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their taxes automatically go up at the beginning of next year,” Mr. Obama said.

Here’s the full video of the speech:

The president also highlighted comments by some Republicans who’ve expressed a willingness to put revenues on the table as part of a deficit-reduction plan. “I’m glad to see — if you’ve been reading the papers lately — that more and more Republicans in Congress seem to be agreeing with this idea that we should have a balanced approach,” he added.

But for Boehner, that “balanced approach” still does not mean increasing rates on wealthier Americans. “You’re not going to grow the economy if you raise tax rates on the top — on the top two rates,” the Ohio Republican said on Capitol Hill. “It’ll hurt small businesses. It’ll hurt our economy. It’s why it’s not the right approach. We’re willing to put revenue on the table as long as we’re not raising rates.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., charged that Democrats were putting entitlement programs at risk by refusing to reforms to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“Democrats like to pretend as though they’re the great protectors of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They make solemn pledges all the time about how they won’t even entertain a discussion about reform. What they don’t say is that ignoring these programs is the surest way to guarantee their collapse,” McConnell said.

Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei report there is progress being made behind the scenes that does not square with public comments showing the two sides are still far apart:

Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion — the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion – and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had what one insider described as a short, curt conversation Wednesday night — but the private lines of communications remain very much open.

The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman, meanwhile, note that federal retirement programs have become a key “roadblock” to forging an agreement:

Democrats complained that Republicans have yet to name their price for enacting legislation that would preserve tax cuts for the vast majority of Americans next year while raising revenue from the wealthiest 2 percent.

Republicans, meanwhile, insisted that it is up to President Obama to offer a plan to restrain the cost of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the government’s biggest and fastest-growing programs — in exchange for GOP concessions on taxes.

The New York Times’ Peter Baker writes that Mr. Obama has largely abandoned talk about spending cuts since the election to focus on the tax issue:

Republicans and even some Democrats have expressed frustration that Mr. Obama has avoided a serious public discussion on spending with barely a month until deep automatic budget cuts and tax increases are scheduled to take effect. While the president’s aides said it was important to engage the public on taxes, others say he has not prepared the country for the sacrifice that would come with lower spending.

On Wednesday’s NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown had a piece that wrapped together all the day’s fiscal cliff developments. Watch the segment here or below:

Production assistant Norreen Nasir explains the fiscal policy proposals in this post.


The “fiscal cliff” has taken to Twitter.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama asked the microblogging site’s users to tag posts with #My2K, and the hashtag trended across the country. The administration meant for the hashtag — representing the more than $2,000 tax increase expected to hit middle-class families when the Bush-era tax cuts expire — to function as a tool for people to share their support of the president’s fiscal cliff policy.

It’s the newest example of how political leaders may try to harness social media’s influence post-election, when presidential proposals may not be the most heated controversy that Twitter buzzes over.

But #My2K quickly spun away from its intended public relations effort. The conservative Heritage Foundation bought the search term before it went viral, and a link to a column criticizing Warren Buffett became the top “promoted tweet” on the #My2K search page.

Others saw the humor in its similarity to Y2K and turned the tag from earnest statement to joke.

Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn of the Daily Download joined Jeffrey Brown on Wednesday to discuss how the fiscal cliff policy debate has developed online.

Watch the Daily Download here or below:


  • Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus renewed their calls for comprehensive immigration reform Wednesday, the day after two retiring Republican senators proposed a bill called the Achieve Act. The plan would grant legal status, but not full citizenship, to undocumented young people who grew up in the United States. Ray Suarez spoke with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a proponent of comprehensive reform.

Watch the segment here or below.

  • The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser tees up Thursday’s meeting at the White House between Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney.

  • The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer reports that some Senate Democrats are apprehensive about Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to change the filibuster rules with a simple majority vote. The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein breaks the news that the Obama administration was standing behind Reid’s push for filibuster reform.

  • Thursday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA looks at taxes for middle-income families and the alternative minimum tax.

  • Romney will keep an office at his son’s business in Boston.

  • The New York Times’ Nate Silver parses 2012 election data to see how employees at top West Coast tech companies voted.

  • The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger reports on who’s behind the Fix the Debt group that’s met with leaders in Congress and the White House.

  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard a case on the benefits criminals may receive if a higher court changes a law during their appeal processes. Dry subject, you think? Not so, writes the New York Times’ Adam Liptak. Justices Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan spoke of unicorns as a metaphor four times.

  • The final tally of Republicans in the House majority is settled, with 234 versus 201 Democrats, after North Carolina Democratic incumbent Mike McIntyre won his race Wednesday following a recount.

  • The White House is vetting former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, for a top Cabinet position such as secretary of state or secretary of defense, Foreign Policy reports.

  • Michael Sluss of the Roanoke Times explores the possibility of Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling running for governor as an independent in 2013. On Wednesday, he dropped his gubernatorial bid for the Republican ticket.

  • Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal reports that former South Dakota GOP Gov. Mike Rounds is expected to announce Thursday he’s launching a bid for the Senate in 2014.

  • The Atlantic compiles photos of presidents greeting the men they defeated. Scroll for the most classic non-meeting photo: George McGovern reading the newspaper after President Richard Nixon resigned.

  • The man who tattooed the Romney-Ryan logo on his face will have it removed by laser because he feels Romney has acted like a “sore loser.”

  • Slate blog Quora asks, “If Every U.S. State Declared War Against the Others, Which Would Win?” The answer is a highly entertaining and fictionalized account of the Second American Civil War.


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