December, 2012

Deal Reached on Fiscal Cliff

President Obama and Senate Republicans reached a “sweeping deal” that would let income taxes rise significantly for the first time in more than two decades, fulfilling Obama’s promise to raise taxes on the rich and averting the worst effects of the fiscal cliff, the Washington Post reports.

While a Senate vote on the package is expected to be held before a midnight deadline, the Republican-controlled House “will begin considering the bill on Tuesday, with a final vote expected in the next day or two.”

“The agreement came together after negotiators cleared two final hurdles
involving the estate tax and automatic spending cuts set to hit the
Pentagon and other federal agencies later this week. Republicans gave
ground on the spending cuts, known as the sequester, by agreeing to a
two-month delay paid for in part with fresh tax revenue, a condition
they had resisted. White House officials yielded to GOP wishes on how to handle estate taxes.”

The New York Times notes the “nature of the deal ensured that the running war between the White House
and Congressional Republicans on spending and taxes will continue at
least until the spring.”

Blood Clot Located Near Clinton’s Brain

Doctors treating Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she “suffered a blood clot in a vein between her brain and skull behind her right ear but predicted that she would make a full recovery,” the New York Times reports.

“Her doctors said in a statement on Monday that the clot did not result in a stroke or neurological damage and that she was being treated with blood thinners.”

Cliff Notes

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that a fiscal-cliff deal is “very, very close” and that there is bipartisan agreement on all the tax issues. The GOP leader is now pressing to have the Senate to vote on the tax aspect of the deal as soon as possible and take up the spending issues later.

It’s unlikely McConnell would have made such a statement if he didn’t feel comfortable that he had enough votes in the Senate.

There is no word on when a Senate vote would take place or if such a deal could pass the House. However, CNN reports a House vote will likely not come before the midnight deadline due to procedural issues.

National Journal points out that an agreement on tax issues only sets up a series of “mini-cliffs” that Congress will have to deal with in the coming months.

For the very latest, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have nice tickers.

Hannity Implodes

New York Daily News: “In a fitting coda to 2012, we’ve learned that the ratings for rock-ribbed conservative Sean Hannity cratered after Barack Obama won his second term, with viewers tuning out the Fox News Channel talk-show host in droves.”

“According to Nielsen numbers, Hannity lost around half of his audience in the weeks after the election, while his Fox News colleague Bill O’Reilly — who steadfastly refuses to identify himself politically as a conservative — retained around 70% of his audience.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“The party right now is a holding company that’s devoid of a soul and it will be filled up with ideas over time and leaders will take their proper place. We can’t be known as a party that’s fear-based and doesn’t believe in math. In the end it will come down to a party that believes in opportunity for all our people, economic competitiveness and a strong dose of libertarianism.”

— Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R), in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, on the state of the Republican party.

Cliff Compromise Takes Shape

The White House and Senate Republicans “are closing in on a budget compromise that would raise tax rates on couples making more than $450,000 a year, increase taxes on large inheritances and extend unemployment benefits for a year,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“However, with the New Year’s deadline approaching, negotiators were hung up on how, if at all, to postpone the $110 billion in spending cuts due to take effect Jan. 2.”

The biggest wildcard, of course, remains whether House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) could get such a compromise through the House of Representatives.

Andrew Sullivan: “This is the middle of a titanic struggle, not the end.”

Media Tip: How to Recover From a Brain Freeze

A guest post from Brad Phillips, author of The Media Training Bible.

In November 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s presidential bid was effectively ended after he went blank for an excruciatingly painful 47 seconds during a primary debate. Although that moment became rather infamous (I rated it the worst gaffe of Election 2012), Mr. Perry is far from alone.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer suffered a similar fate during a gubernatorial debate in 2010, when she went blank for 13 seconds. It was even worse for Jeanine Pirro, a candidate who briefly ran for Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate seat in 2005 but who saw her campaign almost instantaneously grounded after misplacing a page of her announcement speech and going silent for 32 seconds.

The truth is that most of us have suffered a similar–if less high profile–brain freeze. So what should you do if you go blank during an interview, debate, or speech?

Two Sides Closer But No Deal Yet

A “frantic round of late-night negotiations” between Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “moved the Senate close to a deal to stave off hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts that would begin to kick in on Tuesday,” the New York Times reports.

First Read: “From what we understand, McConnell wants a deal — he wants to get this tax issue off the table. So they are close. The question is whether Boehner would bring such a deal to the floor and whether it could pass in time. But if a Biden-McConnell deal gets 70 or more votes in the Senate, Boehner might not have no choice but to bring the legislation to the House floor.”

Wonk Wire: Will fiscal cliff negotiations continue into 2013?

A Historically Bad Congress

First Read: “Regardless of what happens today, the 112th Congress is going to wind up as the least popular and least productive Congress (in terms of legislation becoming law) in the modern era. For starters, Congress’ approval rating the last time the NBC/WSJ poll measured it (in August 2012) was just 12%, and a whopping 82% disapproved of Congress — the highest percentage in the history of our NBC/WSJ poll. In addition, just 219 bills have been passed into law — the lowest number since Congress began tracking this number in the 1940s. (And many of these bills were naming courthouses or post offices.) The previous low was 333 in the 104th Congress (1995-1996).”

“Throughout its history, of course, Congress has always been a dysfunctional place; in fact, the Founding Fathers ensured it that way (with the federal government’s checks and balances). But this particular Congress, which comes to an end on Jan. 3, has been uniquely dysfunctional. Just consider: the current fiscal-cliff debate, the debt-ceiling standoff of 2011 that resulted in an S&P credit downgrade, the Super Committee’s failure, the near government shutdown in the spring of 2011, the defeat of the U.N. Disabilities treaty, etc. With the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff, and the near government shutdown, it’s hard not to conclude that Congress has been an active player in the sluggishness of the U.S. economy.”

German Magazine Publishes Bush Obituary

Germany’s respected news weekly Der Spiegel mistakenly published an obituary for former President George H.W. Bush, hours after a family spokesman said the 88-year-old was recovering from illness, the AP reports.

The unfinished obituary appeared on Der Spiegel‘s website for only a few minutes Sunday before it was spotted by Internet users and removed.

NPR reports Bush was actually moved out of intensive care.