A man walks past the U.S. Capitol building on Monday. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters.
President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are getting closer to a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, but they are not there yet.
The president put forward another proposal Monday that called for $1.2 trillion in revenues and leaving in place existing tax rates for households earning more than $400,000 a year. That marks a shift from Mr. Obama’s offer last week that included a target of $1.4 trillion in revenues with rate hikes for families with incomes exceeding $250,000 annually.
Last Friday, Boehner submitted a plan that would raise $1 trillion in revenues over a decade, in part by allowing the rates to increase on Americans earning more than $1 million a year.
The movement toward an agreement came after Mr. Obama and Boehner met for 45 minutes at the White House on Monday, the third round of direct talks between the men in five days. Lawmakers now have two weeks to approve a deal that would prevent nearly $500 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax hikes from taking effect on Jan. 1.
The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane detail more of the specifics in the president’s latest bid and note that there are still points of disagreement left to be resolved:
Obama also gave ground on a key Republican demand — applying a less-generous measure of inflation across the federal government. That change would save about $225 billion over the next decade, with more than half the savings coming from smaller cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries.
In addition, Obama increased his overall offer on spending cuts and dropped his demand for extending the payroll tax holiday, which has benefited virtually every worker for the past two years. But he is still seeking $80 billion in new spending on infrastructure and unemployment benefits and an increase in the federal government’s borrowing limit large enough to avert any new fight over the issue for two years.
Boehner has offered a one-year debt-limit increase, and the fresh stimulus spending remains a sticking point, according to senior Republican aides, who also complained that the overall deal remains too tilted toward new taxes.
Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times, meanwhile, breaks down Mr. Obama’s proposed spending reductions:
The White House says the president’s plan would cut spending by $1.22 trillion over 10 years, compared with $1.2 trillion in cuts from the Republicans’ initial offer. Of that, $800 billion is cuts to programs, and $122 billion comes from adopting a new measure of inflation that slows the growth of government benefits, especially Social Security. The White House is also counting on $290 billion in savings from lower interest costs on a reduced national debt.
Of the $800 billion in straight cuts, the president said half would come from federal health care programs; $200 billion from other so-called mandatory programs, like farm price supports, not subject to Congress’s annual spending bills; $100 billion from military spending; and $100 billion from domestic programs under Congress’s annual discretion.
Republican aides said the president’s new plan was still off the mark. “Any movement away from the unrealistic offers the president has made previously is a step in the right direction, but a proposal that includes $1.3 trillion in revenue for only $930 billion in spending cuts cannot be considered balanced,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement. “We hope to continue discussions with the president so we can reach an agreement that is truly balanced and begins to solve our spending problem.”
While there are clearly differences that must be ironed out, the two sides appear to be closer than at any point since negotiations began following the November election.
The question now is whether the leaders can sell an agreement with tax increases and reforms to Social Security to their respective parties.
For Boehner, that answer could come as early as Tuesday morning, when he confers with GOP members on Capitol Hill.
RESPONDING TO A TRAGEDY
The NewsHour devoted the bulk of Monday’s program to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
Gwen Ifill interviewed Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who said it’s an “uphill road” to passing the assault weapons ban that she will introduce in the next Congress.
She outlined the specifics of her proposal:
“What we’re trying to do is ban the sale, the manufacture, the transfer, the importation of assault weapons. And it gets quite technical. And I won’t go into that right now.
Grandfathered weapons that people already have, subject those weapons either to licensing or to a trigger lock, and spell out those grandfathered weapons, which would be over 900 in the bill, so nobody can say, oh, we took our — their hunting weapon away …
It would ban approximately 100 weapons by actual name and then weapons by physical characteristics.”
Politically it won’t be easy. As of late Monday afternoon interview, Feinstein had not yet talked with any Republicans or the president. She told Gwen that she had reached out to White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to ask to speak with Mr. Obama briefly, but she hadn’t heard back.
Watch the interview here or below:
NewsHour reporter-producer Cassie M. Chew wrote an article on the history of the assault weapons ban and noted that Feinstein’s political rise began when she witnessed the deaths of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk after they were assassinated by a political rival at city hall. Feinstein now could earn the top spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee, writes Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski, since the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, death may shuffle committee chairmanships.
A team of Obama administration Cabinet members and Vice President Biden may complement Feinstein’s efforts to bring measures that prevent mass shootings. The Washington Post reported that Mr. Obama met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Monday. On Tuesday afternoon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif.,will meet with representatives from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
On Monday’s NewsHour, Judy Woodruff talked with four guest about the possible ways forward after the mass killing left 20 first graders and seven others dead. Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, and David Kopel, an adjunct professor at the University of Denver and research director for the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, spoke about both sides of gun policy.
For more information on current gun policy and legislators’ positions, ProPublica rounded up a set of surprising state-level gun policies, and Washington Post data provided for a map of senators’ ratings from pro-gun groups.
Joining Woodruff to discuss other policy approaches, including on mental health, were Katherine Nordal, from the American Psychological Association, and Dr. Irwin Redlener, a Columbia University pediatrician.
Watch the panel discussion here or below:
Jeffrey Brown spoke with Harvard psychiatry professor Dr. Nancy Rappaport and Amy Smith of the National Association of School Psychologists about the ways schools and parents may talk with children about grief and loss.
Watch here or below:
Finally, Hari Sreenivasan looked at a community in mourning. He interviewed a former classmate of gunman Adam Lanza and a woman who formerly led the school district.
Watch Hari’s report here or below:
World War II veteran and the Senate pro tempore Daniel Inouye died Monday. The 88-year-old Democrat from Hawaii was the second-longest serving U.S. senator in history behind West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd. Here’s a full obituary. His office said his last word was “Aloha.”
An aide to Inouye tells Roll Call that the senator’s “last wish” was to see Rep. Colleen Hanabusa take his seat. That’s up to Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who will appoint an interim senator after the Hawaii Democratic Party nominates three Democrats for him to choose between. (Don’t miss this terrific Jason Horowitz profile of Inouye from 2010.)
With Inouye’s death, the position of president pro tempore of the Senate goes to Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who may also assume leadership of the appropriations committee, which Inouye chaired.
Mr. Obama officially won enough votes to win the presidency Monday, with members of the Electoral College meeting and voting in every state. Here’s the Associated Press’ story.
Meanwhile, three of Arizona’s electors questioned Mr. Obama’s birthplace.
South Carolina GOP Rep. Tim Scott will fill the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Jim DeMint. The state will hold a special election in 2014.
NewsHour’s Alex Bruns profiles the incoming senator, who will be the first African-American Republican in the Senate to represent South Carolina.
Former South Carolina GOP Gov. Mark Sanford might run for Scott’s House seat next year. His ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, also might run.
Former Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis says he won’t temporarily fill Sen. John Kerry’s seat if Kerry becomes secretary of state next year.
The Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan writes about the millions of dollars in non-Northeast-centered pork tacked onto the Hurricane Sandy recovery bill.
Reid Wilson writes for National Journal about Republican-controlled legislatures considering proposals to split their electors in future presidential contests.
Roll Call’s David Drucker talks with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who said Nevada will be a top priority for his party should he win a second term.
Boehner named Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway as chairman of the House Ethics Committee. The Houston Chronicle has details.
The Gun Owners of America lobby is unhappy with the National Rifle Association. The former’s chief counsel told the Huffington Post that the rival gun lobby is hiding from media like an opossum.
The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices will investigate a lobbying group that a Frontline investigation discovered was working with campaigns.
Did Mitt Romney’s campaign overcharge reporters that traveled with the candidate? Leaders of major national papers, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, think so.
Martin Scorsese is making a documentary about former President Bill Clinton for HBO.
- Tuesday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA is on the rapid growth of Medicaid spending since 2001.
- The NewsHour produced an honor roll of the victims of Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown. Watch here or below.
Gwen talks with Harvard’s Institute of Politics.
- Alex Bruns and Linda J. Scott wrap up the week that was on Capitol Hill last week.
Tomorrow will be the first day the state of Hawaii has not been represented by Daniel Inouye.
— Alex Bruns (@ABBruns) December 17, 2012
Sen. Inouye sometimes wore a leather blazer & sunglasses on the Senate floor. Because you get to do that when you’re a war hero.
— Susan Davis (@DaviSusan) December 17, 2012
I’m sure it’ll be touched on in obits, but it could be an entire story: the Inouye and Ted Stevens friendship
— jmartpolitico (@jmartpolitico) December 17, 2012
At gun control march on Capitol Hill. Going to NRA HQ. Counter-protests expected say organizers. twitter.com/aterkel/status…
— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) December 17, 2012
One indisputable call to action from the Connecticut tragedy – SECURE YOUR GUNS IF YOU OWN THEM.
— JudgeCarter (@JudgeCarter) December 17, 2012
Myself an pattison left a note to president Obama on my board and he responded!!Here is his response. twitter.com/newtownfootbal…
— Steven George (@newtownfootball) December 17, 2012
Haley says “as a minority female”… “Congrssman Scott earned this seat.” #SCSEN
— Lauren Whittington (@l_whittington) December 17, 2012
Those of you disappointed that Stephen Colbert wasn’t appointed to DeMint’s seat may be happy to hear his sister may run for Scott’s seat.
— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) December 17, 2012
— Jessica Bakeman (@jessicabakeman) December 17, 2012
Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.
Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.