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Where Washington Stands on the Cliff: New York Times: "House Republican leaders, after three difficult days of wrangling support, headed toward a vote on Thursday on Speaker John A. Boehner’s backup plan to avert a fiscal crisis by canceling January tax increases for all but the wealthiest Americans, while leaving the tougher fights on spending to future battles. With broader budget talks between the speaker and President Obama stalled, the speaker told reporters he would instead force through a measure that would extend Bush-era tax cuts on income below $1 million in an effort to put pressure on the Democratic-controlled Senate to avert a year-end collision of automatic tax increases and spending cuts. The vote on what the speaker has dubbed 'Plan B' is expected to be close and is unlikely to draw much Democratic support."
Big Business's Blessing: Wall Street Journal: "The nation’s largest lobbying group for American businesses is standing with House Speaker John Boehner. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to House lawmakers Thursday, said it supports Mr. Boehner’s 'Plan B' legislation that is scheduled for a House vote later in the day. The lobbying group’s voice could help the speaker secure the votes he needs to pass the legislation despite defections from GOP members."
Senate Dems Promise To Block: Washington Post: "But Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid pledged that the Democratic-controlled chamber would not vote on Plan B even if Boehner could muster the Republican votes necessary to send the measure to the Senate. Illustrating Boehner’s difficulties, the conservative Club for Growth not only reiterated its opposition to his plan to raise taxes on people earning more than $1 million a year, but urged lawmakers to reject a separate Republican bill that would partially avert a series of spending cuts set to take effect in January."
We've Seen This Before: Weigel: "The lurching, wheezing progress toward the fiscal cliff so closely resembles the final days of the debt limit battle that it's starting to get ridiculous. One of the House GOP's last moves, in that fight, was the passage of a conservative, dead-in-the-Senate debt limit hike. Republicans had been ready to pass Cut, Cap, and Balance. ... But Boehner et al tried to corrall the votes for a less-extreme plan. They spent days. They finally gave up close to midnight, and the next day agreed to rejigger the 'compromise' in a way that saved conservative face."
The Plan B Joke We've All Been Waiting For: "Well, I actually got really excited when I heard Speaker Boehner talking about Plan B because I thought finally, they’ve made progress on a really important women’s health issue that I’ve been working on," Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said today. "But that was not the case."
WaPo Interactive: Choose your own 'cliff' adventure
The Story of the Year Is a Sad One: Associated Press: "The horrific massacre of 26 children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school, along with other mass shootings, was the top news story of 2012, narrowly edging out the U.S. election, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors. The results followed a rare decision by the AP to re-conduct the voting. The initial round of balloting had ended Dec. 13, a day before the shootings in Newtown, with the election ranked No. 1, followed by Superstorm Sandy. The original entry for mass shootings, focused on the rampage at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, placed sixth in that voting."
The Top Ten: 1) Mass shootings, including those in Newtown and Aurora 2) the U.S election, 3) Superstorm Sandy, 4) the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision, 5) Libya, specifically the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the ensuing political fallout, 6) Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State child sex scandal, 7) the U.S. economy, 8) the "fiscal cliff," 9) Gay marriage, including Obama's public support and voter referendums in Maine, Maryland and Washington, 10) Syria's civil war.
Booker Makes Up His Mind: "I’m not going to soft pedal this. It is my intention to run for U.S. Senate," Newark Mayor Cory Booker told the Star-Ledger this morning."But it’s premature. I’m not launching a campaign today. I have some work to do on that."
Taking The Easier Path: Booker had two obvious choices when it came to his political future: He could challenge Gov. Chris Christie next year or wait until 2014 to make a run at the Garden State Senate seat currently held by Democrat Frank Lautenberg. Political observers in Newark and Washington had long been dreaming of a Booker-Christie matchup next fall, but the prospects of that high-profile battle dimmed, and then ultimately disappeared, in large part thanks to Christie's astronomically high approval ratings in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. A recent poll of New Jersey Democrats, meanwhile, showed a relatively easy path to the Senate for Booker by way of a primary challenge to Lautenberg, who would be 90 in 2014.
Lautenberg Reponds: Via an e-mailed statement from his spokesman: "Senator Lautenberg is focused on passing a critical disaster relief bill for New Jersey and addressing America's broken gun laws. The last several months and weeks have been a painful time for New Jersey and America, and the Senator is working on the tough issues we face. This is not the time for political distractions and the Senator will address politics next year."
The NRA's PR Push: The group has been noticeably quiet in the wake of last Friday's tragic school shooting in Newtown, but it looks like that's going to change beginning tomorrow. First up will be the NRA press conference in Washington, D.C., where the group has promised to "offer meaningful contributions" to help ensure that what happened in Connecticut "never happens again." From there, the gun lobby's top executives will hit the Sunday talk shows to continue their outreach effort. NRA CEO and executive VP Wayne LaPierre will be on NBC's Meet The Press and NRA president David Keene will appear on CBS's Face The Nation.
Speaking of the Second Amendment: It’s Not Just the Second Amendment Anymore: How the NRA is larding state constitutions with frivolous, redundant "right to hunt" amendments; and Is the Second Amendment the Second Most Important? The order of the Bill of Rights is an argument for gun control.
After Benghazi: Washington Post: "The State Department will strengthen security at diplomatic posts in dangerous areas, adding Marine guards and better protecting against fires, in response to the fatal attacks on a lightly guarded compound in Libya, department leaders said Thursday. ... Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is asking Congress for an additional $750 million to hire about 150 more security officers, a deputy said. The Pentagon has agreed to send about 225 more Marine guards to medium- and high-threat diplomatic posts, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 'We need to learn from this,' Nides said."
The News From Wall Street: Reuters: "IntercontinentalExchange struck an $8.2 billion deal to buy NYSE Euronext, a combination that will propel the commodities market powerhouse into European financial futures but threaten to further reduce the clout of the New York Stock Exchange. The deal will create a new player in global derivatives trading and clearing that would take on CME Group Inc. While the New York Stock Exchange has stood for 200 years as an iconic symbol of U.S. capitalism, it is almost an afterthought in this deal."
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