President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met at the White House Thursday with no apparent progress on the fiscal cliff, and things are getting so bad that NBC News’ Chuck Todd on “Morning Joe” — what Washington watches on the treadmill — brought up 1990s literature. Todd said the negotiations are proceeding so poorly that it seems like Obama is from Mars and Boehner is from Venus.
With most everyone shut out of the mano-a-mano discussions, members of Congress are floating ideas. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., according to the Washington Post, is proposing to let the marginal tax rates rise for earnings above $250,000 for a family — but maintain current policy otherwise, including dividend, capital gains and estate taxes. The idea is to end up with a tactical victory for the GOP because this would create far less increased revenue than even Boehner has proposed.
Savannah Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston told the AP’s Chuck Babington that he does not think a deal in early January would be such a bad thing. Here’s what January would look like:
The new landscape would allow President Barack Obama to face his liberal base — and, more importantly, let House Republicans face their conservative constituents — and say in essence: “See, I did the best I possibly could, and it didn’t work. The other side didn’t blink. Now everyone’s taxes have gone up, and it’s time for compromise.”
So long as there is even a day left to negotiate, some hard-liners in both parties will demand that their leaders hold fast. Having the Dec. 31 deadline expire would finally show there’s no more time to negotiate.
A number of lawmakers in both parties say the fiscal cliff could actually become a gentle slope, with the economic impact quickly mitigated under circumstances easier for Republicans to swallow.
“We can do something on the third of January which isn’t unreasonable,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., a 20-year House veteran. “And I think it’ll pass the Senate real quickly.”
Mmmm, fried fish.
The new marijuana legalization laws in Washington state and Colorado have presented something of a conundrum for the Obama administration, but the president does not seem too worried. He told ABC’s Barbara Walters that “we’ve got bigger fish to fry” than pot smokers.
Obama told Walters he does not – “at this point” – support widespread legalization of marijuana. But he cited shifting public opinion and limited government resources as reasons to find a middle ground on punishing use of the drug.
“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law,” Obama said. “I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?”
In his younger days in Hawaii, Obama was known to have a toke or two with the “Choom Gang.” Now he realizes drugs are bad.
“There are a bunch of things I did that I regret when I was a kid,” Obama told Walters. “My attitude is, substance abuse generally is not good for our kids, not good for our society.
“I want to discourage drug use,” he added.
State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, has fired the “first shot” in support of ethics reform, reports the AJC’s Kristina Torres:
His Senate Resolution 7, filed this week, would ask voters to change the Georgia Constitution with a mandate to fund the state’s ethics commission. In essence, the proposal seeks to create a permanent funding source for Georgia’s watchdog over lobbyists and lawmakers.
The resolution requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass. It does not have the endorsement of Senate leaders, meaning it probably has little chance of becoming law.
Instead, it gives McKoon an opportunity to keep building a case in the General Assembly to change ethics rules governing lawmakers and lobbyists.
The big breaking news Thursday afternoon was U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrawing her name from consideration for Secretary of State. In a Washington Post op-ed she explains why:
I have never sought in any way, shape or form to mislead the American people. To do so would run counter to my character and my life of public service. But in recent weeks, new lines of attack have been raised to malign my character and my career. Even before I was nominated for any new position, a steady drip of manufactured charges painted a wholly false picture of me. This has interfered increasingly with my work on behalf of the United States at the United Nations and with America’s agenda.
I grew up in Washington, D.C., and I’ve seen plenty of battles over politics and policy. But a national security appointment, much less a potential one, should never be turned into a political football. There are far bigger issues at stake. So I concluded this distraction has to stop.
In perhaps the least shocking news of the week, it turns out a $60 billion Senate appropriations package of emergency funding related to Hurricane Sandy has some unrelated goodies tucked in there. Roll Call has the details:
In general, the Senate bill closely resembles the White House’s $60.4 billion request made on Dec. 7, but it adds some new spending not specifically mentioned in the Obama administration’s proposal. Included would be $125 million for a Department of Agriculture watershed program that could help Colorado cope with the aftermath of the summer’s wildfires and $50 million for the National Parks Service’s Historic Preservation Fund. The Sandy bill also would include $150 million for fisheries that have faced recent disasters in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as New England, said Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who had sought this funding to address the marine debris washing up on the coasts of Western states from the Japan earthquake of March 2011.
- By Daniel Malloy, Political Insider