A healthy dose of humbug has hit Washington as we go hurtling over the fiscal cliff. President Barack Obama and top Congressional leaders will meet at the White House this afternoon to discuss if there is a way out of the looming tax hikes and spending cuts due Jan. 1. The House returns Sunday night, with instructions to remain through the week into the new Congress — sworn in Jan. 3 — while a grouchy Senate came back Thursday evening. The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer sets the mood in a piece worth reading from start to finish, but here’s one particularly good morsel:
Amid the absurdity of an urgent, nonurgent holiday session, there was the odd hum of normalcy. Senators fulminated about espionage for hours on the Senate floor as they debated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congressional aides wore their workday best as they sped through hallways, clutching their phones. Taco Thursday continued as it does each week in the small carryout restaurant where staff members collect lunches to be eaten at desks. [Rand] Paul, as per usual, tussled with the leadership over one of his amendments.
Mostly, people just looked mad. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, his tie slightly askew, looked as gloomy as the clouds hovering over the Capitol dome. “I didn’t realize how much I didn’t want to be here until I got here,” said Mr. Schumer, who had taken the red eye from San Francisco, where he had arrived only days earlier to visit his daughter.
The Washington Post has this one, for those optimistic that this afternoon’s cliff summit could resolve matters:
Despite the behind-the-scenes activity, some of [Senate Republican Leader Mitch] McConnell’s closest allies predicted that there was too little time to seal an interim deal and said each side was trying to pin the blame on the other.
“It’s all theatrics now,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), McConnell’s incoming chief deputy, told reporters.
The Times’ Nate Silver — he of the controversial yet accurate presidential race predictions — has come up with a way to quantify why compromise is so difficult in the House. It has to do with the polarization of districts: “As these figures make clear, the number of swing districts has been on a steady decline since at least 1992, and the number of landslide districts on a steady rise.”
Based on the data Silver relies on, Georgia is a great case study for the polarization. Of the state’s 14 newly drawn Congressional districts, 11 are “landslide” Democratic or Republican lean, as they were more than 20 percentage points out of line with the national margin in the presidential race (Obama +4). The remaining three were “strong” Democratic or Republican, by being more than 10 percentage points away from the national margin. (Interestingly, one of the “strong Republican” districts was won by a Democrat, John Barrow of Augusta.)
So next time you curse the lack of compromise from Reps. Tom Graves of Ranger (a 73-25 Romney district) or John Lewis of Atlanta (83-16 Obama), remember where they come from.
Georgia’s elected representatives will be back Jan. 14 for the start of their legislative session. Among the initiatives on their plate will be an expansion — yes, that’s right — of pre-k education thanks to better-than-expected lottery revenues. Also on the docket: mandatory FBI fingerprint checks for daycare employees. The AJC’s Nancy Badertscher has more:
Bobby Cagle, who oversees pre-k as commissioner of Bright from the Start: the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” the governor’s recommendation will be approved.
Cagle is expected to lobby to change state law to require all day-care employees to have background checks based on FBI fingerprint records.
Currently, only center directors are subject to the FBI checks, which can uncover records of crimes in any state, Cagle said. All other day-care employees need only in-state background checks that are based on information such as name and date of birth, he said.
Early voting has been slow for the Jan. 8 special elections that will fill a pair of state Senate seats and a state House seat, GPB reports: “Officials say they saw four to five times the number of voters cast a ballot during the same period in advance of the November election.”
The Post has a rundown of the Top 10 political quotes of 2012, and No. 10 holds a special resonance from my time as the AJC’s roving Newt correspondent: “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.” – Newt Gingrich
- By Daniel Malloy, Political Insider