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December 2012 Archives

UPDATED: Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 9:30 a.m.

The Senate voted in the wee hours of the morning to approve the deal to avoid the country rolling off the fiscal cliff but now the House must meet on New Years Day to vote on the measure. Below, you'll find updates from the Sun-Times, our own Lynn Sweet, and other Washington pundits as we head towards the final reckoning. Live video of the House convening will be added when available.





Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 31, 2012
Fiscal Cliff Deadline Day


FISCAL CLIFF NEW YEAR'S EVE AT THE CAPITOL

With fiscal cliff negotiating continuing on Monday, with just hours left to 2012, the Senate convenes at 11 a.m. ET and the House opens for legislative business at 10 a.m. ET.

A note from the GOP House leadership to members sent Monday morning sums up the potentially chaotic nature of the day ahead:


"IMPORTANT SCHEDULER NOTE: Today's schedule remains VERY fluid. Members are
advised to remain close to the Capitol as additional legislation and votes are
possible pending action from the Senate. Please stay as flexible as possible as
we move through the day."

CAN BIDEN SAVE THE DAY?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked his former Senate colleague, Vice President Joe Biden, to intervene to help jumpstart stalled negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Biden and McConnell--but the White House is doing so in close coordination with Reid. Reid and Biden are on the same page, but if it is easier for McConnell and Biden to talk, so be it. Never underestimate the power of personal relationships in understanding Congressional deal-making. The communication is better when people who get along are talking.

WHAT'S HAPPENING TODAY

The latest Associated Press story is HERE.

My Monday column lays out the Sunday bargaining in the Senate and what is unrolling for Monday, in this rare, historic New Year's session of Congress. Read my column HERE.

Excerpt:

Will Congress go over the fiscal cliff? Maybe. I lean to the highly likely. But there are degrees of going over. If there is a deal and lawmakers need a bit more time to conclude the paperwork and vote, then the impact of finishing up on Tuesday or Wednesday is minimal; the legislation can be retroactive to Jan. 1. A more pressing deadline is noon Thursday, when the new Congress is sworn in.

DURBIN ON THE FISCAL CLIFF DEADLINE CRUNCH

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), appearing Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," explained that deadlines force Congressional action. Said Durbin, "I've been around Washington long enough to know that it takes a deadline, it takes a lot of sweat and a lot of worry, and people reach a point where they finally say, "All right, let's try to find a way through this. It's happened before. It could happen again."

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), absent from the Senate almost a year because of a stroke, plans a triumphant return next Thursday, walking up the steps of the Senate to be greeted by Vice President Joe Biden, the Sun-Times has learned.

Unless there is a change, Kirk, 53, will make his homecoming on the opening day of the new Congress, when the vice president presides and swears in new members.

Kirk's return to the chamber comes after months of intense rehabilitation following the stroke symptoms on Jan. 21 that were followed by three brain surgeries.

In the past year, Kirk has been seen in public only once --on Nov. 4, when, wearing a brace on his left leg, he climbed 37 flights of stairs at the Willis Tower in downtown Chicago.

Kirk's Senate stair-climb will be a highly symbolic statement of his recovery -- and part of the orchestrated rollout of his return being planned by his office.

(It is possible to avoid most stairs by taking the Senate subway, which connects the Senate office buildings to the Capitol.)

The Associated Press reported that Kirk visited his Senate office for about 30 minutes on Dec. 20 to prepare for his return to active duty.

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who suffered a stroke on Dec. 13, 2006, returning fully to the Senate on Sept. 5, 2007, often uses a scooter to get around.

In February, Kirk started in-patient treatment at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to regain walking and speaking skills. Kirk started out-patient treatment in May, eventually returning to his home in the Fort Sheridan neighborhood of Highland Park.

Kirk has kept a very low profile while in recovery. He has appeared in several videos released by his office providing updates on his condition and videos to back the re-election campaigns of Rep. Bob Dold and Rep. Judy Biggert, both of whom were defeated in November.

In an August video, Kirk appeared to have some partial paralysis of his left side.

Throughout the past year, Kirk has continued to be briefed on Senate business by his staff while working with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on a variety of Illinois issues, including recommendations for a new Chicago-based U.S. attorney.

Last week, the Senate approved a measure, co-sponsored by Kirk, toughening sanctions against Iran in order to deny the nation the ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran and Israel have long been a major agenda items for Kirk. He has been silent over the potential nomination by President Barack Obama of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to be Defense secretary; Hagel's opposition to Iran sanctions -- and his positions on Israel and Middle East issues -- are seen as major roadblocks to Senate confirmation.

Kirk defeated then-Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias to be elected to the Senate on Nov. 3, 2010, in unusual balloting where he was up for two spots: to fill the unexpired term of President Barack Obama and for his own six-year term. Kirk was sworn in on Nov. 29, 2010, for the Obama slot and on Jan. 5, 2011, for his complete term.

The vice president's office declined comment.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Read David Gregory's full interview transcript from President Obama's appearance after the jump.


Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 30, 2012
1 day to the fiscal cliff

BREAKING NEWS: OBAMA ON NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS" SAYS FISCAL CLIFF OFFERS TO GOP "FAIR"

President Barack Obama is making a very rare Sunday talk show stop Sunday morning in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" host David Gregory. MTP executive producer Betsy Fischer Martin ‏@BetsyMTP is giving us a sneak peak at the news with her tweets:

"Obama says his offers to Republicans "have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me."

"It's been very hard for Boehner & McConnell to accept the fact that taxes on wealthiest Americans should go up a little bit."

"I was modestly optimistic ... but we don't yet see an agreement. Now the pressure's on Congress to produce."

HOUSE, SENATE IN RARE SUNDAY SESSION

The House and Senate are in session on Sunday. It's rare to meet on a Sunday--even rarer on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's.

COULD THERE BE A FISCAL CLIFF VOTE ON SUNDAY?

Yes, if there is a deal. So far there is no deal.

WILL THE SENATE VOTE EVEN IF THERE IS NO DEAL?

Yes, unless there is a change in the game plan. That's because Obama has called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) to hold an-up-or-down vote in the Senate even if there is no filibuster-proof compromise with the Republicans. Obama is daring the GOP to block a measure to prevent tax hikes for most people in order to preserve tax hikes for the top earners. The Senate Democrats hold the majority, so they have enough votes to push a bill through. Would that result in a bill Obama could sign on Jan. 1? Maybe not, because getting a bill passed only on Democratic Senate voters through the House will be very tough.

My column on Obama's dare is HERE.

Excerpt: "In the event Senate leaders can't cut a deal, Obama called on Reid to ask for an up-or-down vote on a bare-bones package that would avoid tax hikes that would impact almost everyone."

The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting Saturday night that President Barack Obama is urging the Illinois General Assembly to legalize gay marriage when the measure comes up for a vote in the coming days, Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet is report. Click HERE for the full story.


Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 29, 2012
2 days to the fiscal cliff


SPOTLIGHT ON REID AND MCCONNELL

The fiscal cliff ball Saturday is in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who are trying to work out a compromise they can present to their members on Sunday.

It's Saturday and the Senate is at rest and House members are traveling back to Washington in order to be on the job by 6:30 p.m.Sunday.

From McConnell spokesman Don Stewart: "While the House already passed legislation in August to prevent tax hikes (a proposal Sen. McConnell supports), the President and Congressional leaders (Friday) agreed that the Senate must now act. This will require a bipartisan approach. Members of the Senate will continue to work toward producing a bipartisan package in a timely manner to protect American taxpayers and jobs from a massive tax hike in January."


Weather report: Overcast and rainy today, Sunny Sunday. An omen?

On CNN Saturday morning, former FDIC chair Shelia Blair is predicting a deal--with a heavy dose of kicking the can down the road when it comes to meaningful tax reform and deficit reduction. She also predicts Congress will mothball the payroll tax break all earners have been getting for the last two years but will make permanent the tax breaks. The breaks Congress are wrestling with now were put in place starting in 2001 under former President George W. Bush--and reluctantly extended by President Barack Obama in 2010.


As I wrote in my Friday column about the payroll tax:

"If Congress does nothing by Dec. 31, then everyone faces federal income tax hikes in 2013 and a series of spending cuts -- spread over 10 years -- kicks in. Even with a deal, by the way, paychecks will be smaller in 2013 because no one in Congress or the Obama White House is talking about extending the payroll tax cuts in place for the past two years, letting you keep more of your money because of reduced payments for Social Security."

OBAMA SATURDAY ADDRESS: MEET THE DEADLINE

Obama's Saturday address is a rewrite of the Friday statement he made after meeting with the four leaders at the White House. (click below for the entire transcript)

Excerpt:

"We just can't afford a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. The economy is growing, but keeping it that way means that the folks you sent to Washington have to do their jobs. The housing market is healing, but that could stall if folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since 2008, but already, families and businesses are starting to hold back because of the dysfunction they see in Washington.

"You meet your deadlines and your responsibilities every day. The folks you sent here to serve should do the same. We cannot let Washington politics get in the way of America's progress. We've got to do what it takes to protect the middle class, grow this economy, and move our country forward."

SEN. ROY BLOUNT DELIVERS GOP SATURDAY ADDRESS: FISCAL CLIFF FALL "AVOIDABLE"

Sen. Roy Blount (R-Mo.) in the GOP Saturday address gets to the heart of the disagreement with Obama. Obama wants to let taxes rise on top earners; Republicans do not.

From Blount: "The President's proposal to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of Americans won't even pay one-third of the annual interest that's now owed on this massive $16 trillion debt. In fact, the President's tax hike would only fund the government for eight days. Americans deserve to know: What does the President propose we do for the other 357 days of the year?

"Inaction shouldn't be an option. The problems facing our country are big, but they're not necessarily all that complicated. The President will never have more political capital than he does right now, and the next few days will begin to define his second term. He was elected to lead.

"We still can avoid going over the fiscal cliff if the President and the Democrat-controlled Senate step forward this week and work with Republicans to solve this problem and solve it now."

Click below for Blount transcript.

President Obama issued a statement on the latest fiscal cliff negotiations on Friday. Below is video and transcript of his statement.

Good afternoon, everybody. For the past couple of months, I've been working with leaders of both parties to try and forge an agreement that would grow our economy and shrink the deficit - a balanced plan that would cut spending in a responsible way but also ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, and, above all, protect our middle class and everybody who is striving to get into the middle class.

I still want to get this done. It's the right thing to do for our families, for our businesses, and for our entire economy. But the hour for immediate action is here. It is now.


Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 28, 2012
3 days to the fiscal cliff


BREAKING NEWS: GOP HOUSE MEMBERS MEETING FRIDAY MORNING IN ADVANCE OF OVAL OFFICE HUDDLE

The four top congressional leaders head over to the Oval Office for a 3 p.m. meeting Friday with President Barack Obama and Vice President Biden--in what will be a series of last-ditch efforts to avoid going over the fiscal cliff on Dec. 31--which is increasingly likely.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the meeting very public "political theater" Thursday night over at Fox News "On the Record" hosted by Greta Van Susteren.

By that he means the huddle may be more show than go.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill today:

at 9 a.m., the GOP House members meet in the Capitol.

at 11:30 a.m. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and a group described as "working people" hold a New Year's Eve countdown style press event--yes, with a disco ball--to pressure Republicans to not let tax rates rise for most people in order to preserve tax breaks due to expire Dec. 31 for the top earners.

POISED TO GO OVER THE FISCAL CLIFF

Not many pathways to avoid going over the cliff; it may be easier to make a deal after the fall. My Friday column on this point and more is HERE.

My argument:

Why easier?

While bargaining continues over the income cut-off: $250,000, or $400,000 or $1 million, a vote before Dec. 31 would raise taxes for some top earners. Once the automatic hikes occur, a January vote, whether in the current or new Congress, would be for a tax cut for most people -- which for some Republicans would be easier to do politically.

Another reason: The first thing the new Congress does on Jan. 3 is elect a new Speaker. Boehner may have an easier negotiating hand in this fiscal cliffhanger once he is re-elected.

AN ELEMENT IN A SENATE COMPROMISE

Since it takes a supermajority to pass a measure in the Senate, the majority Democrats have more incentive to negotiate with the minority Republicans. The Hill story is HERE about elements--including over the estate tax--that could woo GOP Senate votes on compromise fiscal cliff legislation.



REFRESHER COURSE: FAQ'S ON THE FISCAL CLIFF

The Washington Post Fiscal Cliff 101 short course is HERE.


Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 27, 2012
4 days to the fiscal cliff


BREAKING NEWS SCOOP: GOP CONFERENCE CALL THURSDAY AFTERNOON

Republican House leaders are holding a "members only" conference call at 2:30 p.m. Thursday as the path is not clear to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff by the Dec. 31 deadline. President Barack Obama gets back to the White House at 11:45 a.m. in order to deal with the stalemate.

BOEHNER AND THE HASTERT RULE

Policy and Pragmatism 101: Making the deal means constant tending to the question of whether a negotiated package can make it to the floors of the House and Senate for a vote. The Democrats control the Senate--which means Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) can call a vote--even if he needs GOP support to build a supermajority. In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a crucial decision--does he call a bill even if it fails to have support of the majority of his GOP colleagues--which means it would take Democratic votes to pass.

I write about this--and the governing principle named after former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) in my Thursday column; read it HERE.

Excerpt: The Senate -- under rules that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to change -- needs a supermajority of 60 votes to pass anything, which means the majority Democrats have to woo some GOP support to get anything done.

With only a few days left, Boehner's threshold decision is whether to allow House members to vote on a measure negotiated between all the parties -- but would only pass with the help of Democratic votes. That decision trumps everything else on the table right now.

The Senate is back from Christmas break on Thursday. Boehner told members he would give them a 48-hour notice to return, which means the earliest anything can happen is Saturday.

SUN-TIMES DAVID ROEDER: MARKETS AND THE FISCAL CLIFF

Business write David Roeder reports that the markets are braced for Congress going over the fiscal cliff. Read his story HERE.

AT-A-GLANCE: WHAT IF THERE IS NO DEAL

CBS explains some of the consequences if Congress does not act on the fiscal cliff by Dec. 31: Automatic tax hikes and federal government cuts--about $110 billion a year for 10 years in an article HERE.

COMPLICATING MATTERS: HITTING THE DEBT CEILING

Obama threw in the fiscal cliff discussions lifting the debt ceiling, giving him a long-term solution to not being held hostage to the periodic need to raise the debt ceiling--since default is not an option. Now in the mix is the notice Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner gave Congress on Wednesday--that the statutory debt limit will be reached on Dec. 31, 2012.

From the Geithner letter to Congress: "the Treasury Department will shortly begin taking certain extraordinary measures authorized by law to temporarily postpone the date that the United States would otherwise default on its legal obligations.

"These extraordinary measures, which are explained in detail in an appendix​ to this letter, can create approximately $200 billion in headroom under the debt limit. Under normal circumstances, that amount of headroom would last approximately two months. However, given the significant uncertainty that now exists with regard to unresolved tax and spending policies for 2013, it is not possible to predict the effective duration of these measures. At this time, the extent to which the upcoming tax filing season will be delayed as a result of these unresolved policy questions is also uncertain. If left unresolved, the expiring tax provisions and automatic spending cuts, as well as the attendant delays in filing of tax returns, would have the effect of adding some additional time to the duration of the extraordinary measures. Treasury will provide more guidance regarding the expected duration of these measures when the policy outlook becomes clearer."



Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 2, 2012
5 days to the fiscal cliff

FISCAL CLIFF: BACK TO WASHINGTON

Good morning all....President Barack Obama departs Honolulu at 10 p.m. Wednesday evening, cutting short his holiday vacation to return to Washington to deal with the looming fiscal cliff crisis. We're in a stall, though I think something will work out: even if it takes a few days past the Dec. 31 deadline.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia and Sasha remain in Hawaii until after the New Year.

So for what does Obama return here as Washington experiences its first snowfall of the season this morning--not counting a few flurries on Christmas.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) faced a setback last week over this "Plan B" backup plan he floated--but could not call for a vote because he could not find 218 Republicans to vote it it. No Democrats would touch it.

That means the shift is towards this...something that was always a possibility--and that is Boehner "frees up" about 30 Republicans--more would be better--for a plan that passes with a majority of Democratic votes. But that would be over--probably--a compromise plan that starts in the Senate.

The Senate is due back on Thursday. House members were told they would get 48 hours notice to return--and no one has sent out that flare yet.


WATCHING WALL STREET

Watch pressure to mount for a deal if Wall Street starts reacting--negatively--to all the uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff.

STARBUCKS: COME TOGETHER ON FISCAL CLIFF

Well, try anything. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz asked employees in the 120-Washington D.C. area stores to write "Come Together" on coffee cups on Thursday and Friday to urge GOP and Democratic House and Senate member and Obama to make a fiscal cliff deal.



Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 25, 2012
6 days to the fiscal cliff


Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 24, 2012
7 days to the fiscal cliff

One week to go....and on this day before Christmas, with Washington quiet, there is no clear path to avoid the looming Dec. 31 fiscal cliff. Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama will likely return to Washington later this week.

In the meantime, I leave you with the analysis of departing Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT.) who was asked by CNN's Candy Crowley Sunday on her "State of the Union" show how does this fiscal cliff deal making play out?

" Well, Candy, I will tell you in the aftermath of House Republicans rejecting Speaker Boehner's so-called Plan B, it's the first time that I feel that it's more likely that will go over the cliff than not. And that -- if we allow that to happen, it will be the most colossal consequential act of congressional irresponsibility in a long time, maybe ever in American history, because of the impact it will have on almost every American -- taxes up, programs cut, probably sending us back into a recession.

"So the ball is now clearly with the Senate. Senator Reid and Senator McConnell have the ability to put this together again and pass something. It won't be a big, grand bargain to take care of the total debt, but they can do some things that will avoid the worst consequences going over the fiscal cliff. I can tell you that talked to a lot of Republican colleagues in the Senate who are favorably inclined toward the idea it to protect the middle class from the tax cuts, let's raise taxes on people over 250,000, and let's stop those terrible cuts in defense, homeland security, education, et cetera."


Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 23, 2012
8 days to the fiscal cliff

Two days before Christmas and all quiet on the fiscal cliff front. The Sunday shows will yield enormous speculation about whether there will be a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff by the looming Dec. 31 deadlines. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for now seems to have big choices to make: will he allow a bill to be called that could be passed--but mainly with Democratic votes? Or does he allow a rump group of Republicans prevent a GOP negotiated package from being passed?


click below for the Obamas' message


Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 22, 2012
9 days to the fiscal cliff


FISCAL CLIFF IN LIMBO AS OBAMA, CONGRESS HEADS HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

President Barack Obama hit Hawaii early Saturday morning--he spends every Christmas in his native state. The House and Senate are on Christmas break. The fiscal cliff talks are in limbo for a few days. Lawmakers should be braced to return to Washington after Christmas. Maybe even spend New Years in D.C.

A few hours before Obama flew to Hawaii, he stopped at the White House briefing room to deliver a negotiation update:

"I just spoke to Speaker Boehner and I also met with Senator Reid. In the next few days, I've asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That's an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days.

"Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers. And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year. It's that simple.

"Averting this middle-class tax hike is not a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility. With their votes, the American people have determined that governing is a shared responsibility between both parties. In this Congress, laws can only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. And that means nobody gets 100 percent of what they want. Everybody has got to give a little bit, in a sensible way. We move forward together, or we don't move forward at all.

"So, as we leave town for a few days to be with our families for the holidays, I hope it gives everybody some perspective. Everybody can cool off; everybody can drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones. And then I'd ask every member of Congress while they're back home to think about that. Think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here. Think about the hardship that so many Americans will endure if Congress does nothing at all."

BOEHNER SATURDAY ADDRESS: ON AVERTING THE FISCAL CLIFF

Boehner transcript:

"As you know, unless President Obama and Congress take action, tax rates will go up on every American on January 1st.

"The day after that, a mandatory 'sequester' will go into effect that will implement harmful cuts to our national defense. That is currently the law of the land.

"The House has done its part to avert this entire fiscal cliff. On the 10th of May and again on Thursday, we passed legislation that would replace the 'sequester' with responsible spending cuts. We also passed a bill to stop all of the January 1 tax hikes. The events of the past week make it clearer than ever that these measures reflect the will of the House.

"The American people re-elected President Obama on Election Day. They also re-elected a Republican majority in the House. In doing so, they gave us all a mandate. It was not a mandate to raise tax rates on families and small businesses. It was a mandate for us to work together to begin solving the massive debt that threatens our country's future.

"Unfortunately, the president and Senate Democrats have vowed to reject and veto all of our proposals while failing to offer a responsible solution of their own.

"What the president has offered so far simply won't do anything to solve our spending problem and begin to address our nation's crippling debt. Instead, he wants more spending and more tax hikes that will hurt our economy. And he refuses to challenge the members of his party to deal honestly with entitlement reform and the big issues facing our nation. That is why we find ourselves here today.

"I've challenged the members of our party to grapple with these issues, to make tough choices. And we're willing to - because Washington has a serious spending problem. This was the year the size of our debt - all 16 trillion dollars of it - surpassed the size of our entire economy. It's a grim milestone, one of many we'll have to bear if we don't come to grips with it.

"The president's solution of raising tax rates would still leave red ink as far as the eye can see. And it would hurt jobs, at a time when far too many of our citizens are struggling to find them.

"I used to run a small business. I've seen the damage higher taxes can do to jobs and families. I don't want tax rates to go up. Republicans don't want tax rates to go up. The best way to address our crippling debt is to make significant spending cuts and fix our tax code to pave the way for long-term growth and opportunity. This is an approach most Americans support, and it remains Republicans' highest priority. But we only run the House. Democrats run Washington.

"Of course, hope springs eternal, and I know we have it in us to come together and do the right thing. We will continue to work with our colleagues in the Congress and the White House on a plan that protects families and small businesses.

"For now, I wish all the American people a blessed and Merry Christmas."


President Obama is due to address the fiscal cliff at 4 p.m. Chicago time. Watch live below.

ElaineNekritzDec21.JPG
Rep. Elaine Nekritz // AP Photo/Seth Perlman

SPRINGFIELD-The pension-reform package put forth earlier this month by a pair of North Shore House Democrats immediately would cut Illinois' $95 billion pension debt by almost 30 percent, a new financial analysis disclosed Friday.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Rep. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) released new number-crunching on their legislation from three of the state's five pension systems - analysis they said shows their plan would "achieve significant savings and make major strides toward stabilizing Illinois' finances."

Their plan would cut annual cost-of-living increases for retirees, make government workers pay more toward their retirement and hike the age when they can obtain full benefits.

It also would gradually shift the state's cost of covering pensions for suburban and downstate educators to the school systems that employ them.

Their report Friday showed that the state's unfunded pension liability - the gap between how much taxpayers owe current and future retirees and the amount of money actually on hand to pay them - would drop from $95 billion to $67 billion.

Their study predicted long-term payments to the pension systems would drop by 43 percent or $169 billion between now and 2045, and that next year's required pension payment would drop from $6.7 billion to $4.8 billion.

And by 2045, if their changes are adopted, the state would have to pay $11.7 billion in pension contributions rather than the projected $16.8 billion, a change that "represents a manageable growth trajectory for the next 30 years, replacing an unsustainable path that would crowd out key priorities of state government."

The data released Friday also showed that the financial hit on suburban and downstate school systems, who would be asked to shoulder the state's current burden in paying pension costs for educators Downstate and in the collar counties, would be smaller than a similar concept floated last spring by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Over 30 years, the cost of that shift on school districts would be $6.43 billion, compared to more than $20 billion under Quinn's cost-shift plan.

"I feel really good about these numbers," Biss told the Chicago Sun-Times. "They're where they need to be, and they'll be helpful in getting support. They demonstrate we're really solving the problem."

The analysis was performed for Biss and Nekritz by the Teachers' Retirement System, the State Universities Retirement System and the State Employees' Retirement System.

Follow along below for live video of Pres. Obama's announcement of John Kerry as his Secretary of State nominee.

WASHINGTON--The National Rifle Association, breaking its silence Friday in the wake of the Sandy Hook gun massacre in Newtown, Ct., called for armed guards in every school--and less video game violence--and no other proposals dealing with gun control.

In a press conference lasting about 30 minutes--disrupted twice by anti-NRA demonstrators--NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said the creation by "politicians" of "gun-free school zones" only sends the message to "every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk."

LaPierre said the NRA would assist in training for these school guards and asked Congress to help in funding these positions.

These proposals are probably not what the Obama White House has in mind when it comes to the task force President Barack Obama created--led by Vice President Biden--to come up with proposals in a few weeks to curb gun violence.

Democrats in Congress would not go along with funding an armed-guard at schools only program if it were not coupled with other measures to curb gun violence: more safety checks, closing gun show loopholes, limited the number of bullets in clips.

More from LaPierrre:

"How have our nation's priorities gotten so far out of order? Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses, even sports stadiums are all protected by armed security.

"We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol police officers. Yet when it comes to our most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless. And the monsters and the predators of the world know it and exploit it. That must change now."

"...The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters, people that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them.

"They walk among us every single day.

"And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment? How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave while provoking others to try to make their mark? A dozen more killers? A hundred more? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

"The fact is this. That wouldn't even begin to address the much larger, more lethal criminal class, killers, robbers, rapists, gang members who spread like cancer in every community across our nation. Meanwhile, while that happens, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40 percent to the lowest levels in a decade.

"So now, due to declined willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years.

Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man- made disaster, and you've got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.

"And here's another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal. There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people through vicious, violent video games with names like "Bulletstorm," "Grand Theft Auto," "Mortal Kombat" and "Splatterhouse." And here's one --it's called "Kindergarten Killers" (sic/Killer). It's been online for 10 years. How come my research staff can find it and all of yours couldn't or didn't want anyone to know you had found it?

Add another hurricane, add another natural disaster, I mean, we have blood-soaked films out there like "American Psycho," "Natural Born Killers." They're aired like propaganda loops on "Splatterdays" and every single day. A thousand music videos -- and you all know this -- portray life as a joke, and they play murder -- portray murder as a way of life. And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment.

"But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography? In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes every minute, every day, every hour of every single year.

"A child growing up in America today witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And throughout it all, too many in the national media, their corporate owners and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonized gun owners.


"...Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and build a national -- (audio break) -- the media calls semiautomatic firearms "machine guns."

"They claim these civilian semiautomatic firearms are used by the military, they tell us that the 223 round is one of the most powerful rifle calibers, when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don't know what they're talking about. Worse, they perpertuate -- perpetuate the dangerous notion that one more gun ban or one more law imposed on peaceful -- peaceable, lawful people will protect us, where 20,000 other laws have failed.

"As brave and heroic and as self-sacrificing as those teachers were in those classrooms, and as prompt and professional and well- trained as those police were when they responded, they were unable, through no fault of their own, unable to stop it.

"As parents, we do everything we can to keep our children safe. It's now time for us to assume responsibility for our schools.

"The only way -- they only way -- to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or from a minute away?

"Now I can imagine the headlines -- the shocking headlines you'll print tomorrow.

"More guns, you'll claim, are the NRA's answer to everything. Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools.

"But since when did the gun automatically become a bad word? A gun in the hands of a Secret Service agent protecting our president isn't a bad word. A gun in the hands of a soldier protecting the United States of America isn't a bad word. And when you hear your glass breaking at 3 a.m. and you call 911, you won't be able to pray hard enough for a gun in the hands of a good guy to get there fast enough to protect you.

"So why is the idea of a gun good when it's used to protect the president of our country or our police but bad when it's used to protect our children in our schools? They're our kids. They're our responsibility. And it's not just our duty to protect them; it's our right to protect them.

"You know, five years ago, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy. But what if, what if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way in the Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he'd been confronted by qualified armed security? Will you at least admit it's possible that 26 little kids -- that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day?

"Is it so important to you that you'd rather continue to risk the alternative? Is the press and the political class here in Washington, D.C. so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and American gun owners that you're willing to accept a world where real resistance to evil monsters is a lone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life -- her life -- to shield those children in her care? No one -- no one -- regardless of personal political prejudice, has the right to impose that sacrifice.

"Ladies and gentlemen, there's no national one-size-fits-all solution to protecting our children. But do know this president zeroed out school emergency planning grants in last year's budget and scrapped Secure Our Schools policing grants in next year's budget. With all the foreign aid the United States does, with all the money in the federal budget, can't we afford to put a police officer in every single school?

"Even if they did that, politicians have no business and no authority denying us the right, the ability and the moral imperative to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm.

"Now, the National Rifle Association knows there are millions of qualified active and retired police, active reserve and retired military, security professionals, certified firefighters, security professionals, rescue personnel, an extraordinary (core/corps ?) of patriotic, trained, qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every single school.

"We can deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America's schools safer relying on the brave men and women in America's police forces. The budgets -- and you all know this, everyone in the country knows this -- of our local police departments are strained, and the resources are severely limited. But their dedication and courage is second to none, and they can be deployed right now.

"I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation, and to do it now, to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January.

"Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else, as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work, and by that I mean armed security.

"Right now, today, every school in the United States should plan meetings with parents, school administrators, teachers, local authorities, and draw upon every resource that's out there and available to erect a cordon of protection around our kids right now. Every school is going to have a different solution based on its own unique situation. Every school in America needs to immediately identify, dedicate and deploy the resources necessary to put these security forces in place, though, right now.

"And the National Rifle Association, as America's preeminent trainer of law enforcement and security personnel for the past 50 years -- we have 11,000 police training instructors in the NRA -- is ready, willing and uniquely qualified to help. Our training programs are the most advanced in the world. That expertise must be brought to bear to protect our schools and our children now. We did it for our nation's defense industries and military installations during World War II. We did it for very young kids with our Eddie Eagle child safety program that is throughout the country in schools right now. And we'll do it again today.

"The NRA is going to bring all its knowledge, all its dedication and all its resources to develop a model national school shield emergency response program for every single school in America that wants it.

"From armed security to building design and access control to information technology to student and teacher training, this multifaceted program will be developed by the very best experts in the field," LaPierre said.

Released hours before a National Rifle Association response to the Newtown massacre last week, a video from the White House on Friday morning addressed petitions seeking gun control measures.

President Obama speaks in the video posted to YouTube to hundreds of thousands of people who signed "We the People" petitons urging gun control legislation:

"We hear you. You've started something, and now I'm asking you to keep at it. I'm asking for your help ... to make sure the United States of America is a safer, stronger place for our children to learn and to grow."


Earlier this week, Obama named a commission, headed by Vice President Joe Biden, to come up with plans and suggestions by January on what to do about the nation's gun violence crisis.


Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 21, 2012
10 days to the fiscal cliff

BREAKING NEWS: BOEHNER PRESS CONFERENCE FRIDAY AT 10 A.M. EST
FORCED TO DROP HIS "PLAN B" THURSDAY NIGHT FOR LACK OF GOP VOTES

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sent House members home for Christmas late Thursday night after he was forced to drop his "Plan B" fiscal cliff plan--for lack of GOP votes. That is, Boehner could not most of his members to go along with his proposal, which includes letting tax hikes rise for the few hundred thousand among us with household income about $1 million.

After Boehner pulled the plug he said in a statement, ""The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation's crippling debt. The Senate must now act."


The White House said in a statement released Thursday night after Boehner threw in the towel, "The President's main priority is to ensure that taxes don't go up on 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses in just a few short days. The President will work with Congress to get this done and we are hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly that protects the middle class and our economy."

Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), not surprisingly hit at the GOP in a statement,"Tonight, House Republicans showed their true colors. First they voted to slash funding for Medicaid, child care and other vital services. Then they refused to ask even the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. House Republicans are willing to allow middle class taxes to increase in order to protect tax breaks for millionaires. All Americans should stand together and hold these Members of Congress accountable."

But some Democratic House members still may have to vote on cuts they would rather avoid, which brings me to...


WHAT NEXT

Even if the House passed Boehner's backup plan, the Democratic-controlled Senate would not have backed the measure. So...what's next.....would Boehner go along with a plan to release about 30 Republicans to vote for a plan that would pass with mainly Democratic votes?

The Senate returns on Dec. 27. House members were told they would get a 48-hour notice to return to Washington.

Superstar Newark Mayor Cory Booker took to Twitter, naturally, to announce that he's eyeing a run for U.S. Senate. There has been much discussion of late of his intention to square off against Chris Christie for the New Jersey governor's office, a job he seems to no longer be interested in.

More on Booker's intentions here to run for Senate in 2014 - after finishing his second term as mayor.

WASHINGTON--Democratic Illinois freshmen House members committee assignments were released on Thursday and each of the five newcomers got spots they were seeking: The two military veterans, Reps-elect Tammy Duckworth and Bill Enyart were tapped for the Armed Services panel. Rep.-elect Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) the only GOP Illinois freshman, has been assigned already to two committees.

The rundown:

Agriculture
Congressman-elect Rodney Davis of Illinois

Armed Services

Congresswoman-elect Tammy Duckworth of Illinois
Congressman-elect Bill Enyart of Illinois

Financial Services

Congressman-elect Bill Foster of Illinois

Foreign Affairs

Congressman-elect Brad Schneider of Illinois

Transportation and Infrastructure

Congresswoman-elect Cheri Bustos of Illinois

Congressman-elect Rodney Davis of Illinois

Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley--speaking in Chicago on Thursday--said he was mulling a run for Illinois governor..

AP reported, "Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley says he's seriously thinking about running for Illinois governor.

The brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley spoke Thursday before the civic group City Club of Chicago. In his speech he talked about leadership and his father, former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Bill Daley also talked about Illinois' fiscal problems including the roughly $95 billion in unfunded pension liability.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he'll seek re-election in 2014. The Chicago Democrat says he's ready for any primary challenger.


Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 20, 2012
11 days to the fiscal cliff


BOEHNER TO PUSH VOTE FOR "PLAN B" EVEN WITH OBAMA VETO PLEDGE

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is putting his fiscal cliff "Plan B," his backup plan, to a vote today--even though President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the GOP plan. Boehner has a press conference today--Thursday--at 1:15 p.m. EST

Boehner has said this is part of his two-track plan; he wants to continue to negotiate with the White House while moving "Plan B" along. Except that Boehner and Obama and their teams are not making much progress on that path.

Read details about Boehner's "Plan B" HERE.

WHAT THE HOUSE WILL BE VOTING ON TODAY: DETAILS HERE

From Boehner's office:

The House of Representatives will vote today on two measures to shield families and small businesses from the looming "fiscal cliff" by cutting spending and protecting millions from tax hikes. These bills are:

The Spending Reduction Act of 2012 (H.R. 6684) replaces the president's defense 'sequester' with common-sense spending cuts and reforms, and reduces the deficit by an additional $242 billion over the original sequester. The bill focuses on stopping waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs, eliminating government slush funds (including an ObamaCare slush fund), and reducing waste and duplication in government bureaucracies. The House passed this bill in May but Senate Democrats never took action.

The Permanent Tax Relief for Families and Small Businesses Act
of 2012 (H.J. Res. 66) permanently protects millions of taxpayers from President Obama's tax rate hikes. The bill permanently extends current tax rates for everyone making less than $1 million, the $1,000 child tax credit, expensing relief for small businesses, and much more. Analysis by the nonpartisan JCT found it is a $3.9 trillion tax cut. As Speaker John Boehner said yesterday, the president can "call on Senate Democrats to pass [this] bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history."

OBAMA'S LATEST ON THE FISCAL CLIFF DEALS

Obama at a Wednesday press conference says he has met the GOP demands plenty: read the transcript HERE.

President Obama on Wednesday addressed reporters to lay out his directive that the issue of gun violence take an important place in his administration's action list.

Obama will have Vice President Joe Biden take a lead role in a quick discussion to come up with some legal and societal solutions to curb gun violence.

The president also discussed the state of the fiscal cliff negotiations and expressed frustration with Speaker Boehner and the Republicans for playing politics while a deal could be had.

Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet has a full transcript of the session and reports on the developments on her blog.

WASHINGTON---Robin Kelly, running to replace now former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has put together a campaign team with a lot of experience running Illinois congressional races.

The field for the special primary election in the 2nd congressional district of Illinois is still taking shape. District Democratic bosses did not slate anyone because no contender could muster enough votes for slating. Whoever is the victor in the February Democratic primary will win the seat in the district so heavily Democratic Jackson easily won re-election even after disappearing last June.


CALLING ALL SECOND DISTRICT CANDIDATES: Send in your staff and consultant team and we'll be glad to post your vitals.

Team Kelly:

Jon Blair, Campaign Manager

Adelstein | Liston (Eric Adelstein, Ann Liston, Kory Kozolsky), Media

GBA Strategies (Jason McGrath), Polling

Mission Control (Adnaan Muslim/Mark Bergman), Mail

Spiros Consulting (Edward Chapman), Research

for more details on the group, click below


ObamaTime.jpg

Time Magazine has chosen President Obama as its annual Person of the Year for 2012.

The magazine's managing editor, Rick Stengel, made the announcement on The Today Show Wednesday morning.

"He's basically the beneficiary and the author of a kind of a New America, a new demographic, a new cultural America that he is now the symbol of," Stengel said. "Using the coalition of the ascendant young voters, millennial, Hispanics minorities, he's creating a new alignment, a kind of realignment like Ronald Reagan did 40 years ago."


You can read Times article on the choice - which starts with Obama's move from New York to Chicago 27 years ago - at Time.com.

The president was also on the cover in 2008 after he won office for the first time.


Other notables on the list were:


  • Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!;

  • Mohammed Morsi, president of Egypt;

  • Undocumented Americans;

  • Bill and Hillary Clinton;

  • Malala Yousafzai, the student activist from Pakistan who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban;

  • Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple;

  • Higgs Boson and Italian physicist Fabiola Giannati





Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 19, 2012
12 days to the fiscal cliff


SOCIAL SECURITY NOW A FISCAL CLIFF FACTOR: TO DEMOCRATIC IRE

President Barack Obama is drawing fire from his base as Democrats are grappling with lower Social Security cost of living increases Obama is open to as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) on linking Social Security increases to the lower "chained Consumer Price Index" said in a statement, "In order to shield the wealthiest Americans from paying Clinton-era tax rates, Republicans are demanding cuts to programs that benefit the poorest Americans. Inequality in the United States is the worst it has been since the Gilded Age, and their cuts would make it worse, not better.

"One proposal is to reduce Social Security's annual cost-of-living adjustment through the use of the so-called chained CPI. It's a benefit cut - pure and simple - an average earner retiring in 2011 at age 65 would lose $6,000 in benefits over 15 years. It's particularly devastating for women - who live longer, rely more on Social Security, and receive lower benefits.

"At the same time, there are proposals to increase Medicare premium costs - which come directly out of Social Security payments. It's a double hit. With the chained CPI and higher premiums, seniors will have even less for their daily expenses.

"Two out of every three retiree rely on Social Security for the majority of their income, one in three for 90 percent or more. The average monthly benefit is $1,500 ($1,100 for older single women). Every day, I hear from constituents who cannot afford essential items - from hearing aids to food or medicine at the end of the month - because their Social Security check just isn't big enough. For them even a small reduction in their benefits would be devastating.

"If we want to make the Social Security COLA more accurate, we should actually raise it to reflect the increased fixed costs facing seniors, particularly medical costs. We should not put a higher burden on lower-income and middle-class seniors and the millions of American families who depend on their earned benefits. To do so in order to shield the wealthiest Americans from a tax increase is nothing less than immoral."


GOP, DEMOCRATS ARE WORKING OFF DIFFERENT NUMBERS IN FISCAL CLIFF DEBATE

Glenn Kessler, who runs the Washington Post Fact Checker column, runs through the different sets of numbers in play as Democrats and Republicans grapple with fiscal cliff debt, deficit, budget and revenue issues.
Read his column on the "dueling White House and GOP perspectives HERE.

PELOSI, WHITE HOUSE COOL TO BOEHNER "PLAN B" BACKUP PLAN

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Andrea Mitchell on her MSNBC show after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) unveiled his backup plan, which includes a concession--raising tax rates--albeit on households with income over $1 million. Obama also made a big concession--upping his high earner line to $400,000 from the $250,000 level.

"Speaker Boehner's Plan B does none of the above. Plan B - I would call it "Plan Befuddled." It's really hard to imagine why they even came up with it, unless they just wanted to prove to their Members that unless 218 of them were ready to raise rates, it's not going to pass. The Democrats are not going to give them that success. You can be sure of that.

WASHINGTON--Chicago's South Shore Drill team has been selected to march in President Barack Obama's inauguration parade on Jan. 21, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced on Tuesday. More organizations are still being invited to be part of the event. Find out more about the drill team HERE.

SPRINGFIELD-The state's largest teachers union Tuesday ridiculed an idea floated by the head of an Illinois gun-rights group to allow educators to carry weapons to makes schools safer and perhaps prevent a Newtown massacre from happening here.

"It's ridiculous to think bringing guns into a school or classroom would somehow make that area safer," said Charlie McBarron, a spokesman for the Illinois Education Association. "It's hard to understand how a sane person could make that serious suggestion."

On Monday, the head of the Illinois State Rifle Association said he would favor legislation that would permit school boards to authorize principals, teachers and even custodial employees to carry weapons in the classroom if they underwent training.





Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 18, 2012
13 days to the fiscal cliff


BREAKING NEWS: WHILE SOME PROGRESS WITH WHITE HOUSE, GOP HOUSE DEVELOPING BACKUP PLAN

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is developing a Plan "B" to avoid taxes rising for everyone if Congress does not make a deal by Dec. 31.

MEANWHILE...

President Barack Obama has budged and reportedly is open to having tax rates rise for those with incomes over $400,000--up from the $250,000 he has been talking about. But the GOP and the White House are not in agreement on the balance between raising revenue and cutting spending. Boehner has moved to letting taxes rise for those with income of $1 million and above.

From Boehner spokesman Michael Steel: "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. 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."

BOEHNER'S BACKUP PLAN


On Tuesday morning, Boehner is huddling with his Republican House members and will, I am told, "announce that - given the short time before America goes over the 'fiscal cliff' and the White House failure, thus far, to produce a balanced offer - the House will open up a second track and begin work on a 'Plan B' to stop most of the tax hikes on the American people scheduled for January 1.

"The Speaker will continue to work with the president on a broader agreement as he told the president last night in a phone call, but with time running short the House will act as a precautionary measure to ensure taxes don't rise for most Americans on January 1.

"The threat of all current tax rates expiring is too great to not have a backup plan. We're still talking to the White House and are hopeful an agreement will be achieved, but the President must be willing to support a truly balanced approach - his current offer includes $1.3T in revenue and only $850B in net spending cuts."


HERE IS WHAT BOEHNER IS PLANNING TO SAY TO HIS MEMBERS

Excerpt: "Current law has tax rates going up on everyone January 1. The question for us is real simple: How do we stop as many of those rate hikes as possible? And can we ensure the president keeps his promise to the American people to make real spending cuts along with it that will actually address the problem of our debt?

"For weeks, Senate Republicans -- and a growing number of you -- have been pushing for us to pivot to a "Plan B." I think there's a better way. But the White House just can't seem to bring itself to agree to a "balanced" approach, and time is running short. Taxes are going up on EVERYONE on January 1. They're baked into current law. And we have to stop whatever tax rate increases we can. In the absence of an alternative, as of this morning, a "modified Plan B" is the plan.

"At the same time we're moving on "Plan B," we're leaving the door wide open for something better. And I have been clear about that with the president. Plan B is Plan B for a reason. It's a less-than-ideal outcome. I've always believed we can do better.

"During the campaign, the president promised the American people a "balanced" approach to the debt - revenues and spending cuts. And what I offered the president is the definition of balance: a trillion in revenue, and a trillion in spending cuts. Instead of letting tax rates rise on Americans making $250,000 or more, the rates would rise only on those making a million and up. Instead of getting zero spending cuts, we'd get a trillion in spending cuts, mostly from entitlement programs. Most importantly, we'd lock in a process for tax reform and entitlement reform in 2013 - the two big goals we've talked about for years.


"The president hasn't been able to get there. He talked about a "balanced" approach on the campaign trail. What the White House offered yesterday -- $1.3 trillion in revenue for only $850 billion in spending cuts -- cannot be considered balanced. We're going to keep the door open in hopes the president can find a way to support a balanced approach."


NEW POLL: PEOPLE WANT DEAL, DON'T LIKE FISCAL CLIFF OPTIONS

From the Washington Post-ABC News: "Most Americans want President Obama and congressional Republicans to compromise on a budget agreement, though they, too, are unhappy about the options that would avert the "fiscal cliff," according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. For more, click HERE.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Conservative MSNBC morning host and former Congressman Joe Scarborough took to his airwaves Monday in a 10-minute impassioned commentary calling for change - change in gun rights and the acceptance in society and entertainment of violence.

"The ideologies of my past career are no longer relevant to the future that I want, to the future that I demand for my children, " Scarborough says in his demand that Washington do something about the access of "military style" weapons, extended magazines and an entertainment industry far too comfortable selling violence in games and movies.


From City Hall: "Chicagoans can now interact with Chicago's 311 system via text message. With this new feature, texting CHICAGO to 311311 allows people to submit a service request, track the progress of the request, and sign-up to receive an email when the issue is resolved. The new system also allows residents to sign up for localized City alerts based on their address."




Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 17, 2012
14 days to the fiscal cliff


SIGNS OF FISCAL CLIFF MOVEMENT

While the attention of the nation is on the Sandy Hook gun massacre, there are some signs of movement on the looming fiscal cliff deadline. Whether this results in a deal by the Dec. 31 deadline is not clear. The outlines of a deal--dealing with revenues and spending cuts--could still need to be taken in two steps rather than one, with the second coming next year with a new Congress.

Because of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I do not expect much public posturing today--or for the next few days--as the nation mourns with the families in Connecticut. In a strange way, the muted atmosphere may contribute to the debt, deficit and revenue conversation--to get the fiscal cliff matters over with before a renewed debate on gun control begins.

There won't be any campaign-style fiscal cliff events from the White House for a bit.

A SUMMARY OF WHAT A DEAL MAY BE

From the Associated Press: The offer, made Friday after a long impasse between Boehner, R-Ohio, and Obama, calls for about $450 billion in revenue from increasing the top rate on million-dollar-plus income from 35 percent to the Clinton-era rate of 39.6 percent.

The additional revenue required to meet the $1 trillion target would be collected through a rewrite of the tax code next year and by slowing the inflation adjustments made to tax brackets.

In return, Boehner is asking for $1 trillion in spending cuts from government benefit programs like Medicare. Those cuts would defer most of a painful set of across-the-board spending cuts set to slash many domestic programs and the Pentagon budget by 8-9 percent, starting in January.

MOVEMENT ON DEBT LIMIT CEILING?

President Barack Obama is linking resolution of fiscal cliff tax-and-spending measures to his demand for Congress to getting rid of the debt ceiling. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said no way.

On Sunday night, after the Washington Post came out with a story that Boehner would--as part of a deal--suspend it for a year--his office issued an artfully worded statement:

"Folks - I know most of you are rightly covering the Newtown tragedy tonight. For those of you still paying attention to the fiscal cliff, a quick note on the debt limit. The Washington Post has pushed out a highly misleading story tonight. As you all have learned over the last two years, we have a single, simple principle when it comes to the debt limit: increases are tied directly to how much spending the President is willing to cut. This principle remains unchanged and should not surprise anyone who has covered this debate. If you're being asked to look into this - again, highly misleading - story, please feel free to use the quote here, which has been added:

"Our position has not changed," Boehner spokesman Michael S. Steel said Sunday. "Any debt limit increase would require cuts and reforms of a greater amount."


The lead from the Post:

"House Speaker John A. Boehner has offered to push any fight over the federal debt limit off for a year, a concession that would deprive Republicans of leverage in the budget battle but is breathing new life into stalled talks over the year-end "fiscal cliff."

obama_children.jpg
President Obama meeting with Newton, Conn children before his speech (via)

Below is full video of Sunday night's speech by President Obama and following is a complete transcript (via).

OBAMA: Thank you.

Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us, "Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.

"For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

"For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands."

We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.

I can only hope it helps for you to know that you're not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We've pulled our children tight.




Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 16, 2012
15 days to the fiscal cliff

MOURNING FOR SANDY HOOK VICTIMS

The fiscal cliff wrangling--while ongoing--is on the backburner on Sunday, with the shows devoted to trying to make some sense of the tragic massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school. While the shootings have revived the gun control debate, it's not clear yet if--at the federal level--Congress will act. Meanwhile, several news outlets are reporting Sunday that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is open to letting tax rates rise for those with income over $1million. President Barack Obama has been insistent on tax rates rising at the $250,000 level.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.) was on Meet the Press Sunday morning discussing the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary and said she plans to introduce an assault weapons ban the first day of the new Congress.

"It's being done with care, it will be ready on the first day, I'll be announcing House authors, and we'll be prepared to go -- and I hope the nation will be prepared to help," Feinstein said.

She said she believes President Obama will support it. Though Lynn Sweet wrote on Saturday that the prospects of presidential action are somewhat vague. Obama has promised bold action after these types of tragedy before and not much has come of it. But the age of the victims and the collective shock of the nation may be more of a spur to action this time. The president's own tearful reaction to the shooting may well be an indicator that he's ready to act more decisively.

The full interview:


RELATED: Illinois must allow concealed carry

halv_dec15.JPG
Debbie Halverson, candidate // Seth Perlman/AP Photo

It's slating day for Illinois Democrats in the 2nd Congressional District. With Jesse Jackson, Jr. having vacated the seat last month and a special election coming early next year, it's time to slate a candidate. Leading Dems have lined up to make their pitch and there's still a lot to sift through. State Sen. Donne Trotter is pressing on despite his recent arrest for trying to carry a weapon through an airport checkpoint. Other candidates, like Mel Reynolds, aren't even present, apparently accepting they'll have to go it alone as an independent. Our reporters Dan Mihalopoulos and Casey Toner are at the slating and updating us on what they have below.




Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 15, 2012
16 days to the fiscal cliff


AS THE NATION MOURNS THE SANDY HOOK SHOOTINGS...

Talk about the looming fiscal cliff crisis will fade over the weekend. The Sunday talk shows are focused on the Connecticut slaughter. President Barack Obama's Saturday radio address is about the shootings. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pulled the GOP response in order for the president to lead a unified response to the tragedy. The massacre is prompting the pause button to be hit on the public statements about the fiscal cliff from the main players. Congress is off for the weekend, with the lame ducks not yet done with the work. They may be here through Christmas. All this to say: no fiscal cliff deal yet as the Dec. 31 deadline looms.

Leahy.jpegMary Lee Leahy

SPRINGFIELD-Mary Lee Leahy, the Springfield lawyer known for taking on the state's patronage-hiring system and who died earlier this week, drew praise Friday for her "great service to the state" from a former boss, ex-Illinois Gov. Dan Walker.

Walker, Illinois' Democratic governor between 1973 to 1977, appointed Leahy director of the Department of Children and Family Services and learned of her Wednesday death from his home in Chula Vista, Ca.

"I named Mary Lee director of DCFS in January 1973, but the Senate Executive Committee tubed the nomination. I then appointed her to run the environmental protection program which did not require Senate confirmation. After we defeated machine candidates in 1974, I renamed her to DCFS and this time the Senate confirmed," Walker wrote in an email Friday to the Chicago Sun-Times, praising her obituary.

"Thank you for your kind words about her; she really earned them. She and her husband Andy both rendered great service to the state," said Walker, who turned 90 in August.

"Andy was an ethics ombudsman in my administration before he died at an early age," he continued. "It was Andy who, as an attorney, won that landmark case in 1972 that held unconstitutional the statute that prohibited those who voted in the Republican primary in 1970 from voting in the Democratic primary in 1972.

"I doubt seriously that I would have won that primary without those crossover votes. Both I and all the people of Illinois are indebted to Andy and Mary Lee Leahy," he said.

Leahy was best known for winning a 1990 case before the U.S. Supreme Court, representing the late Cynthia Rutan, who argued she'd been passed over for a promotion based on political considerations.

In a landmark ruling, the court sided with Rutan and ordered that hiring for non-political government jobs, like toll collectors or child-welfare caseworkers, couldn't be filled on the basis of politics.

Leahy died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday at age 72.

Visitation will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Staab Funeral Home, 1109 S. Fifth St., Springfield. A funeral mass will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph Church with burial at Calvary Cemetery.

A more thorough obituary for Leahy can be found on the funeral home website.

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Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

A tearful President Obama spoke from the White House on Friday afternoon to address the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Here are his remarks on the tragedy:

This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families.

We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news, I react not as a president, but as anybody else would as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.

The majority of those who died today were children -- beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

So our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.

Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors, as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children's innocence has been torn away from them too early and there are no words that will ease their pain.

As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we'll tell them that we love them, and we'll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.

May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.




Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 14, 2012
17 days to the fiscal cliff

BOEHNER, OBAMA: 50 MINUTES IN THE OVAL OFFICE

We're heading into the weekend with nothing solid to report on fiscal cliff dealings, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) heading back to the Buckeye State after a meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Thursday.

Both sides issued a bland statement after the 50 minute meeting, from 5:10 p.m. to 6 p.m.

"The President and Speaker had a frank meeting in the oval office tonight. It lasted approximately 50 minutes. There will be no further readout of the meeting, but lines of communication remain open."

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck, a man with an incredible sense of wit and ire, knows vanilla, so he put on the subject line of this bland read-out, "to blow your mind," which of course grabbed my attention.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney talked down the tactical importance of face-to-face meetings at the Thursday briefing--just as the face-to-face was in the works.

"Every time that you guys seem to think that a physical meeting is the elixir to all our ills, I think it would behoove you to ask the speaker if he believes that or ask the House majority leader if he believes that."

Boehner and Obama met in person last Sunday and talked on the phone at least once this week--on Tuesday.

PEW POLL: DEMOCRATS "HAVE PUBLIC OPINION ON THEIR SIDE"

From the pollsters at Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:
http://www.people-press.org/2012/12/13/as-fiscal-cliff-nears-democrats-have-public-opinion-on-their-side/

Pew found: "The Democrats are in a strong position with the public as they engage in negotiations to find a solution to the fiscal cliff crisis. Barack Obama's first post-reelection job approval rating has risen to 55%, up five points since July and 11 points since the start of the year. Obama's job rating is markedly higher than George W. Bush's first job measure (48%) after he won reelection in 2004.

"When it comes to the reaching an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, 55% say Obama is making a serious effort to work with Republicans. But just 32% say Republican leaders are making a serious effort to work with Obama on a deficit deal."

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press was conducted Dec. 5-9 among 1,503 adults.

CNN MONEY: HOW WE GOT IN THIS MESS PRIMER

For a quick briefing click HERE

http://money.cnn.com/2012/12/14/news/economy/fiscal-cliff-origin/index.html

gaymarriage_dec13.JPGSPRINGFIELD-The two leading legislative backers of a measure to legalize gay marriage in Illinois said Thursday they intend to seek a vote in the upcoming January lame-duck session but stopped short of saying if they had the votes to pass it.

"We think we're really within striking distance here of being able to get it done," state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) told reporters during a mid-day conference call with state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago).

Gov. Pat Quinn has encouraged the General Assembly to send him a bill in January that would allow gay marriage and that he would sign it. Mayor Rahm Emanuel also supports the push.

Nine states currently recognize gay marriage.

Illinoisans have moved significantly in favor of gay marriage during the past two years, with more than four in 10 registered voters supporting it in a poll released earlier this fall.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that 43.6 percent of registered voters support giving gays and lesbians the legal right to marry in Illinois. Another poll, from Public Policy Polling, showed that number closer to 47 percent.

Two years ago, only 33.6 percent surveyed by the institute favored granting that right.

"The American public and people in Illinois have had a sea change on public opinion on this in the last couple of years," said Harris, who is openly gay. "It's absolutely the right thing to do."

Both attributed the shift, in part, to President Barack Obama's conversion to a supporter of gay marriage.

In November, Maine, Maryland and Washington state approved gay marriage at the ballot box, becoming the seventh, eighth and ninth states to recognize same-sex marriages. The District of Columbia also permits them.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court waded into the issue, agreeing to consider challenges to a California ban on same-sex marriages and to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars same-sex couples from receiving certain federal benefits attainable by those in heterosexual marriages.

Neither Harris nor Steans would discuss how close they are to attaining the 60 votes necessary to pass Illinois' gay-marriage initiative in the House and the 30 needs to win Senate approval.

But both predicted there would be some Republican support.

Two years ago, when lawmakers legalized civil unions, only one Senate Republican - current Treasurer Dan Rutherford - broke ranks with his caucus to vote in favor of that.

"In civil unions, we had just one who supported it. That senator is no longer in the Senate. I think we'll have at least one, maybe more," said Steans, who characterized a civil union as "second-class status" when compared to the rights afforded through marriage.

The initiative faces strong push back from the Archdiocese of Chicago and other Roman Catholic bishops opposed to gay marriage.

"I think it's pretty clear where the Catholic church is on the sanctity of marriage. We continue to put out information reinforcing that," said Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.

Gilligan said he is confident the votes weren't there to pass gay marriage when lawmakers left Springfield last week.

But Gilligan expressed worry that the issue could become intertwined in the horse-trading of lame-duck votes that is sure to come when a series of contentious issues surface in January, including pension reform, gambling expansion, drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants and legalization of medical marijuana.

"When they're in a lame-duck status, that makes it even more unpredictable so, yes, this is a time of great concern for us," he told the Sun-Times.

Despite promises from Steans and Harris that the traditions of religious institutions will be respected in a gay-marriage bill, Gilligan predicted inevitable reverberations if the legislation passes.

Such was the case two years ago when civil unions were legalized. That opened up an enormous legal fight between the state and Catholic church that resulted in the church no longer helping in the placement of adoptive children over concerns about putting kids in gay or lesbian households.

"Things like that need to be thought through. So far, it doesn't seem to me that enough attention has been given to that," he said.

"For example, the Knights of Columbus have halls and rent them out for wedding receptions and other functions. The Knights being a Catholic institution, if same sex marriage becomes law, are we required to rent out to a marriage we don't recognize?"

The bill, House Bill 5170, would take effect July 1 and extend all of the benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. However, it would not compel religious institutions to solemnize gay marriages.

"We want to respect each religion and to follow its faith and tradition," Harris said.

Under their plan, those who have obtained civil unions could convert them to marriage licenses during the first year of the law without paying any fees.

Thursday's conference call was overseen by ASGK Public Strategies, a communications and strategy firm co- founded by Obama advisor David Axelrod, who no longer has a financial stake in the company.

Harris and Steans would not say who was helping pay for the firm's services.

"We've got a coalition of folks in Illinois who are working together on all the different aspects of this," Harris said.

Photo by John H White/Sun-Times




Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 13, 2012
18 days to the fiscal cliff


STILL HEADING TOWARDS THE CLIFF

Update
House Democrats now have 182 signatures on a "discharge petition" to force GOP leaders for a vote on extending tax breaks for the 98 per centers. There are 191 Democrats (counting out former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and all the signers are Democrats. 218 signatures are needed. The petition dramatizes the partisan divide.

Upcoming on Thursday: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) each hold press conferences.

DEMINT UNLOADS: OBAMA WANTS FISCAL CLIFF "POLITICAL TROPHY"

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is quitting the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation, unloaded on President Barack Obama in a Thursday morning interview with Charlie Rose and Gayle King on CBS' "This Morning" in a conversation about the looming fiscal cliff--where he predicted Obama will get the tax hike on the top earners he wants.

DeMint, a father of the Tea Party movement said he president's proposal clearly is not a plan. It's not a solution. It'll fund the government for a few days."

As for Obama's insistence on letting the tax rates rise for the top two percent, DeMint said "we all realize it's a political trophy. It's not a solution. But the president has been campaigning against these tax rates for a long time, and he'll probably eventually get his tax increases, one way or another."

IF WOMEN SENATORS IN CHARGE: WOULD HAVE A DEAL BY NOW


"I think if we were in charge of the Senate and of the administration that we would have a budget deal by now," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told ABC's World News Diane Sawyer in an interview the anchor had with female senators. The entire interview will be televised in January.

The new Congress--sworn in on Jan. 3--will have a record 20 females.


BOEHNER'S BRENDAN BUCK: ON THE RECORD

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck explains the GOP position:

"I understand a distinguished White House official is making calls to reporters saying the GOP counter-offer called for permanent extension of all current tax rates. This is either intentionally misleading or the work of someone who does not understand what tax reform means. Our offer has always been to raise significant revenue from top earners without raising rates - and tax reform in 2013, which - by definition - would replace the existing code. (The only thing permanent would be the new code.) No stipulations have been placed on the structure of tax reform, but it should be no surprise to any of you that we (and the president as recently as last year) believe significant revenue can be generated through tax reform without rates ever needing to go up - they could potentially even go down (as suggested by the President, circa 2011).:

POLLING SENDING MIXED SIGNALS ON CLIFF ISSUES

From Fox News:


Voters Say Spending Cuts are a Must
If Washington is looking for guidance on the fiscal cliff, voters are sending mixed signals. A majority says major spending cuts are necessary to solve the country's budget woes -- that solely raising taxes on the wealthy isn't enough. Even so, the most popular proposal among voters for reducing the deficit is, you guessed it, raising taxes on the rich.


Click HERE for the questionnaire

DEMOCRATIC LEADERS PRESS 121212 PRESS CONFERENCE

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Jenna Bush Hager, a contributor for The Today Show, announced publicly Wednesday morning that she and husband Henry are expecting their first child.

But former President George W. Bush stole the show from the first daughter.

Displaying a lot of the good humor that he was famous for, President Bush spent several minutes gushing about becoming a first-time grandparent. He also debated the names his grandkids might call him.

"Sir," he said to laughs, before pointing to "Happy," which Jim Baker's grandkids apparently call him. Or "Popsicle," which is what Jenna calls him, seemingly to his chagrin.

Either way, the Bush political dynasty is growing yet again.

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Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli // Photo by Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

The suburban committeemen are in the driver's seat for the slating -- at least for Cook County -- holding nearly two-thirds of the weighted votes in Saturday's Democratic slating for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s House seat.

And Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli is driving the bus. As of yesterday, Zuccarelli said he was still putting his support behind Donne Trotter, who is in court today on gun charges.

Zuccarelli controls 29 percent of the total weighted vote for Cook County's portion of the district. There's also portions in Kankakee and Will counties that's not included here.

Ward Committeeman have a total of 25,900 votes or 37 percent of the total.

  • • 7th: 7,400 or 11 percent (Sandi Jackson)
  • • 9th: 6,600 or 9 percent (Beale)
  • • 5th: 3,700 or 5 percent (Leslie A. Hairston)
  • • 8th: 2,800 or 4 percent (Michelle Harris)
  • • 10th: 3,400 or 5 percent (John Pope)
  • • 34th: 2,000 or 3 percent (Carrie Austin)

Township committeeman have a total of 44,000 votes or 63 percent of the total

  • • Thornton: 20,000 or 29 percent
  • • Rich Township: 11,000 or 16 percent
  • • Bloom Township: 8,900 or 13 percent
  • • Bremen: 4,100 or 6 percent




Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 12, 2012
19 days to the fiscal cliff

UPDATED

Good morning, welcome to the 12-12-12 edition where there is still no deal to avoid the Dec. 31 fiscal cliff. Yet I see a bit of optimism as both sides are talking and throwing in--and--out proposals to raise revenues.

McCONNELL: ONLY VARNISH IS LEFT ON THE TABLE

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to prod President Barack Obama to put more on the table about spending cuts. From the Senate floor McConnell said Wednesday morning--and the italics are mine: "The President and his allies have taken so many things off the table the only thing left is the varnish. The President now seems to think, after his re-election, that if all he talks about are the need for tax hikes, and that's all reporters write about, we'll all magically forget the part about needing balance. It's a classic bait and switch. And we're seeing new versions of it nearly every day now.

"Democrats campaigned for two years saying we needed to take a balanced approach to our problems. Yet now that the President's been reelected, they're walking back, and the only thing left are the taxes. What the President should be doing after his re-election is bringing people together and showing that he has the desire and the ability to lead the two parties to an agreement that's good for the economy and good for the country. So far, he's chosen a different path -- a path aimed at pleasing the most partisan elements of his base. A month after his re-election and weeks before the fiscal cliff, he'd still rather campaign than cooperate. And we'll find out this week if he has the will to change paths and get something done, or just double down on campaigning.

"Look: the election is over. The President may enjoy these political rallies, but it's time to get serious. The American people are gravely concerned about the nation's future. They're counting on us to prevent the kind of crisis here that we've seen unfolding across Europe. Republicans have engaged in these discussions in good faith. We've agreed to make tough choices.

"The question is, where's the President? Where's the only man in the country who can make it happen? Well, it appears that with just a couple weeks left to resolve this crisis, he's busy moving the goal posts. Instead of leading as he was elected to do, he's out campaigning and playing games with the nation's future.




Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 12, 2012
19 days to the fiscal cliff

UPDATED

Good morning, welcome to the 12-12-12 edition where there is still no deal to avoid the Dec. 31 fiscal cliff. Yet I see a bit of optimism as both sides are talking and throwing in--and--out proposals to raise revenues.

Below, Chief Deputy Whip Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) on The Kudlow Report to discuss the looming fiscal cliff crisis. President Barack Obama's world view, said Roskam, "has been created in the state of Illinois, which is a fiscal basket-case today." (1:56 in on the tape)

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Sandi Jackson introduces husband Jesse Jackson Jr. as he addresses his supporters during his victory speech over Deborah "Debbie" Halvorson in March. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) isn't running for her husband's old job, her chief of staff told the Chicago Sun-Times today.

But she is expected to attend a Saturday meeting to slate Jesse Jackson Jr.'s replacement.

As 7th Ward committeeman, Sandi Jackson has a vote in what's expected to be a contentious battle for a Democratic seat that hasn't opened in 17 years.

Jackson Jr. resigned last month, amid a federal investigation and as he battles health issues.

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State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, speaks during a press conference where she kicked off her campaign to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress at Prairie Manor Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Chicago Heights on Dec. 3. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

In a press availability where she talked about the so-called Fiscal Cliff, State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, who is running for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old seat, weighed in on Donne Trotter.

Before today, potential competitors have been quiet on Trotter's arrest last week on weapons charges. Trotter is accused of bringing a weapon in his carry-on luggage when he went through the airport.

"The last three congressman in this district have left amid legal distractions and scandals, and we can't afford that happening again," Hutchinson said. "We need new leadership and a new voice."

Trotter has not been picking up his phone lately, but so far he's not announced any changes in his political future.

"He's still in the race," Cook County Democratic Party Leader Joe Berrios said on Monday.

WASHINGTON---State Sen Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields)--running to replace now former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.--has put together a campaign team with a lot of experience running Illinois congressional races. This means a very serious bid is in the works--no matter who is slated by Democratic party bosses.

The field for the special primary election in the 2nd congressional district of Illinois is still taking shape. Whoever is the victor in the February Democratic primary will win the seat in the district so heavily Democratic Jackson easily won re-election even after disappearing last June.

Here is team Hutchinson, from the campaign...

"Polling: Jill Normington of Normington, Petts and Associates. Jill, based in Washington DC is a nationally respected pollster. Her recent Illinois clients include Congressman-elect Brad Schneider, Congresswoman-elect Tammy Duckworth and former Congresswoman Mellissa Bean.

"Direct Mail: Terry Walsh and Pete Giangreco of The Strategy Group. Terry and Pete, based in Evanston, have worked for the past four Democratic nominees for President of the United States including as top advisors to Barack Obama. Their recent Illinois clients include Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Mike Quigley, Congressman-elect Bill Foster and Congresswoman-elect Tammy Duckworth.

"Media: Ken Snyder and Terrie Pickerill of SP Media Group. Ken and Terrie, based in Chicago, are national media consultants. Their recent Illinois clients include Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Congresswoman-elect Tammy Duckworth, Congressman-elect Bill Enyart and the Illinois Senate Democrats.

"New Media: Mark Nevins, Allison Osborne, and Aaron Hunter of the Dover Group. With offices in Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Las Vegas the Dover Group is among the biggest names in managing social media and web based campaigns in Democratic politics. They've built award-winning online programs for candidates and campaigns across the country.

"Research: Will Caskey of Third Coast. Will, based in Chicago, is a national opposition researcher. His Illinois clients include the successful special elections of Congressman Mike Quigley and Congressman-Elect Bill Foster, as well as Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.

"Campaign Manager: Vlad Gutman

"Finance Director: Devin Rankin, a veteran of several congressional and statewide races

"Deputy Finance Director: Sharon Weber, on leave from Nancy Kohn Consulting

"Field Director: Maura Tracy, most recently Brad Schneider's Field Director"


CALLING ALL SECOND DISTRICT CANDIDATES: Send in your staff and consultant team and we'll be glad to post your vitals.

Anita Alvarez's unflattering '60 Minutes' interview

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Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez sat down with '60 Minutes' in a segment that aired on national TV this weekend. In it, she suggests that necrophilia was a possible reason why the DNA of an uncharged serial rapist was found in a victim's body, while someone else who gave a confession was charged with the murder.
The piece talks about Cook County leading the nation in false confessions.

Watch the video:




Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 10, 2012
21 days to the fiscal cliff


THE CAMPAIGN CONTINUES: OBAMA TO DETROIT MONDAY TO PUSH TAX BREAKS

President Barack Obama hits an auto plant in Detroit--great photo backdrop--to make yet another campaign-style push for Republicans to vote to extend federal tax breaks for 98 percent of earners before they expire on Dec. 31.

Obama will visit Daimler Detroit Diesel to "tour the plant and then deliver remarks to workers." The Detroit Free Press is reporting on Monday: Obama "will announce a new investment to expand U.S. production and jobs as President Barack Obama visits the company's Redford facility today.

"The White House said the investment is expected to be $100 million or more and, with it, Daimler Trucks North America will become the first heavy-duty vehicle equipment manufacturer on the continent to build a fully integrated powertrain from on production facility. Read the entire article HERE

OBAMA, BOEHNER MET SUNDAY: AT LEAST THEY ARE TALKING

Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) the two men who can cut the deal--everyone else is just an extra for now--met face-to-face for the first time in weeks on Sunday. No substantive details have leaked yet. So even though there is no progress to report, at least they are talking--and Obama still has the upper hand. Do Republicans really want to start the year--and the new session--being blamed on raising taxes on 100 percent of us--in order to save money for the top two percent earners?

All that would happen is the new Congress--sworn in on Jan. 3--would extend the tax breaks for the 98 percents--in order to avoid political trouble.


HIKE TAXES ON THE RICH: NEW POLL OUT MONDAY

POLITICO-George Washington University Battleground Poll: Poll sample of 1,000 registered "likely" voters with a margin of error of +-3.1% and field dates of Dec. 2-6, 2012.



Battleground Poll: Hike taxes on the rich http://politi.co/RkEAg5

Highlights, from POLITICO--GWU

- 60% of voters support raising taxes on households that earn more than $250,000 a year

- 64% want to raise taxes on large corporations

- Three in four voters want to cut government spending across the board

- Only 38% buy the GOP argument that raising taxes on households earning more than $250,000 per year will have a negative impact on the economy

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin took to Meet the Press Sunday morning to discuss, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca), the looming fiscal cliff, same sex marriage and Susan Rice's name in relation to the Secretary of State's office.

Durbin and McCarthy basically plumbed the same areas that have been dragged through the public back-and-forth on the fiscal cliff since the election in November - closing loopholes vs. increased tax rates for the wealthy vs. clamping down on entitlements - and managed to point the fingers of blame in the usual directions. The discussion:

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Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 9, 2012
22 days to the fiscal cliff

Updated...

Good Sunday morning.....the talk shows today should yield more rhetoric about fiscal cliff negotiations, solutions and trial balloons. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is on NBC's "Meet the Press." Last night, Saturday Night Live dove off the fiscal cliff in a hilarious skit about President Barack Obama defending House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) who is bullied by his GOP colleagues.

AVOIDING THE FISCAL CLIFF, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE VERSION OF THE DEAL


The "Saturday Night Live" cold open features a press conference where Obama is portrayed by Jay Pharoah, and Boehner is lampooned by Bill Hader.

"In order to get the support of the Speaker, I agreed that there will be no tax increases," Obama said. "Now, why would I do that? I mean, I won the election. I had the leverage. Why give in? Well, simply put, I felt sorry for this man."

IMF CHIEF LAGARDE FISCAL CLIFF WARNING ON CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION" WITH CANDY CROWLEY

On CNN Sunday morning: "Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, spoke to CNN's Candy Crowley on "State of the Union" about the consequences of the president and Congress failing to reach a comprehensive deal on the automatic spending cuts and tax hikes that would occur without an agreement before the end of the year.

"If the U.S. economy was to suffer the downside risk of not reaching a comprehensive deal, then growth would be zero," she said. "It would be much better to actually have a more comprehensive approach and to deal with all the issues," she said.

(footnote: Lagarde's Chicago connection: She is the former chair of Chicago's Baker & McKenzie law firm)


WHITE HOUSE CONTINUES TO PUSH "DECOUPLE'' STRATEGY

With Dec. 31 looming, the Obama White House continues to push for first a vote on just extending tax breaks due to expire at the end of the year--for the 98 percent of earners who make less than $200,000 for individials, $250,000 for joint filers.

As Vice President Joe Biden said Friday at a photo op with a family with a disabled child--suffering from hypotonia--"folks, this is not hard.

"As that old expression used to go, this ain't rocket science. It would take 15 minutes from the time the decision's made by the speaker of the House to pass and make permanent the middle-class tax cut. The president would probably have me sprint up to the Hill to bring the bill down for him to sign. It can be done like that. It is not complicated. It is not complicated."


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President Obama and First Lady Michelle take part in a Hanukkah lighting ceremony at the White House Saturday evening. (Official White House Photo)

President Obama's statement to the Jewish community at the start of Hanukkah:

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah around the world.

This Hanukkah season we remember the powerful story of the Maccabees who rose up to liberate their people from oppression. Upon discovering the desecration of their Temple, the believers found only enough oil to light the lamp for one night. And yet it lasted for eight.

Hanukkah is a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but it is also an opportunity for people of all faiths to recognize the common aspirations we share. This holiday season, let us give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, and remain mindful of those who are suffering. And let us reaffirm our commitment to building a better, more complete world for all.

From our family to the Jewish Community around the world, Chag Sameach.

There was considerably less hubbub over the Obama message this year than last when luminaries such as Jackie Mason and Rush Limbaugh blasted the president for holding a White House function 12 days before the actual holiday began. Mason called it a PR stunt:

"A bunch of advisors, most of whom are Jewish anyways -- because he has more Jews in his cabinet than Netanyahu. He's jammed up with Jews all around him -- and they told him, if you wanna get them back, Hanukkah is a good idea," he said. "You don't have to go any place. We'll put down the tchotchke and you'll see a candle, you'll light it from this side, and that's enough information for him to accumulate without a teleprompter. So he did it in 10 minutes."

And Limbaugh said Obama had confused it for Kwanzaa:

Hanukkah is December 8 through 16 this year, so Limbaugh and Mason will have to find new material on this one.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 8, 2012

Hello, everybody. Over the last few weeks, there's been a lot of talk about deadlines we're facing on jobs and taxes and investments. But with so much noise and so many opinions flying around, it can be easy to lose sight of what this debate is really about. It's not about which political party comes out on top, or who wins or loses in Washington. It's about making smart decisions that will have a real impact on your lives and the lives of Americans all across the country.

Right now, middle-class tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year. Time is running out. And there are two things that can happen.

First, if Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1st. A typical middle-class family of four would get a $2,200 tax hike. That would be bad for families, it would be bad for businesses, and it would drag down our entire economy.



Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 8, 2012
23 days to the fiscal cliff

The main actors in the fiscal cliff negotiations, President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did talk this week--but as Boehner reports, the conversation was pleasant but led to nothing. Yes, staffers are talking to each other--but Boehner and Obama need to figure out what the deal is that can yield 218 House votes--and not cost Boehner his speakership.

Meanwhile, fiscal cliff issues dominate the weekly addresses.....


OBAMA USES WEEKLY ADDRESS TO PUSH TAX CUTS FOR 98 PERCENTERS



SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL.) WEEKLY GOP ADDRESS ON TAX CUTS AND ECONOMIC GROWTH



BOEHNER: "NO PROGRESS TO REPORT"

Boehner at a Friday press conference:

"Well this isn't a progress report, because there's no progress to report. When it comes to the fiscal cliff that is threatening our economy and threatening jobs, the White House has wasted another week.

"You know, eight days ago, Secretary Geithner came here to offer a plan that had twice the tax hikes that the president campaigned on. It had more 'stimulus' spending than it had in cuts. And an...infinite increase in the debt limit, like forever.

"Four days ago, we offered a serious proposal, based on testimony of President Clinton's former chief of staff. Since then there has been no counteroffer from the White House. Instead, reports indicate that the president has adopted 'a deliberate strategy to slow-walk' our economy right 'to the edge of the fiscal cliff.'

"Instead of reforming the tax code and cutting spending, the president wants to raise tax rates. But even if the president got the tax rate hike that he wanted, understand that we would continue to see trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see.

"Listen, Washington's got a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

"If the president doesn't agree with our proposal, I believe that he's got an obligation to families and small businesses to offer a plan of his own - a plan that can pass both chambers of the Congress. We're ready, and eager, to talk to the president about such a plan."

SPRINGFIELD-The cost of renewing your state license plate keeps inching up.

Gov. Pat Quinn Friday signed legislation that would tack on an additional $2 to the existing $99 vehicle registration fee, effective in the 2014 registration year.

The money will go into a fund to help fix up decaying state park facilities.

SPRINGFIELD-A Cook County judge ruled in favor of AFSCME Council 31in a pay dispute with Gov. Pat Quinn's administration, determining Friday that the state must pay wages to 30,000 state workers that the governor has withheld since July 2011.

The governor had promised pay increases to state government's largest employee union but then pulled back, saying the General Assembly had failed to appropriate enough money to cover the pay increases the administration negotiated with the union.

But Cook County Circuit Judge Richard Billik ruled the state is bound by the contract Quinn's administration negotiated with AFSCME and even if the funds don't exist now, workers eventually must be paid what they were promised.

"This ruling is a strong affirmation of the union's clear and simple position: Employees must be paid the wages they are owed, and a contract cannot be unilaterally discarded," AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said in a prepared statement.

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the administration intends to appeal the ruling.

Earlier, Billik had ordered that the state set aside any unused funds from the 2012 fiscal year and with Friday's ruling now has said those funds must be put into trust and not accessed except for pay raises. An additional ruling is expected spelling out how that money will be distributed.

The decision impacts unionized workers in the Illinois Departments of Corrections, Human Services, Juvenile Justice, Natural Resources and Public Health. The Human Rights Commission also is covered.

Obama strategist David Axelrod shaves his trademark mustache

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From the AP:
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's strategist David Axelrod had his trademark moustache shaved Friday on MSNBC after the hosts of "Morning Joe" helped raise $1 million for his epilepsy charity.

Axelrod, and his facial hair, appear frequently on news shows.

He had said on "Morning Joe" he would shave the moustache he'd worn for 40 years on live TV if Obama lost Pennsylvania, Minnesota or Michigan in the Nov. 6 election. Host Joe Scarborough had agreed to grow a mustache if Obama won either Florida or North Carolina.

Obama won Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan and Florida, but Axelrod said he would still shave his moustache if his charity raised $1 million by Nov. 30. His daughter, Lauren, has epilepsy, and his wife, Susan, helped create the group.


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Donne Trotter's arrest on gun charges not only raised questions about his political future, but it opened a new line of inquiry into the nature of Trotter's work for another company.

Trotter, who makes $90,000 a year as a state senator with a leadership post, told police he had a weapon with him because of his role with AllPoints Security and Detective Agency.

That company was paid $350,000 as a subcontractor on a City of Chicago security deal. Its lobbyist? Chico and Nunes, the firm headed by Gery Chico, onetime top aide to former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Several people who work with Trotter in Springfield said privately they were not aware that he carried a weapon, nor that he held a position with a security firm -- something that is not listed on his economic disclosure forms. Trotter is still in the running for the 2nd congressional district.

AllPoints Security is a minority- and women-certified contracting firm that has had political involvement for some time. The company is a subcontractor to provide security services at libraries and other city offices.

The company has made $49,000 in campaign contributions to local and state politicians since 2002, including to Daley, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and $500 to Trotter.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation lists Trotter as having three firearm-related licenses, including a firearm control card issued in March of this year, an original firearms training card, issued in May 2011 and a Permanent Employee Registration Card, also issued in May 2011.

Under his license, Trotter is allowed to carry a gun to and from his work with a security firm but not on an airplane. Authorities said Trotter has a valid FOID card but his gun was not registered with the city.

Under municipal ordinance, guns in Chicago must be registered. Trotter had explained he had been at a job with a security firm the night before and forgot he had the weapon and ammunition in his bag.

Trotter has hired as his attorney former federal prosecutor Thomas Anthony Durkin.

"I'm glad he's home," said Durkin, reached in Washington, D.C. "I won't have any comment until I can meet with him in depth."



Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 7, 2012
24 days to the fiscal cliff

BIDEN'S TURN

Good morning, the White House continues its campaign to take it to the people on the fiscal cliff. On Thursday President Barack Obama hung out with a northern Virginia family who would pay more if Congress lets tax breaks expire on Dec. 31, on Friday, it's Vice President Joe Biden's turn for the photo op. Biden will lunch with "middle class Americans who would see their income taxes go up" if Congress fails to act.

One of the people at the Biden event got their through telling their story at the White House #My2k Twitter feed. The $2,000 represents the amount of extra taxes many would pay if the breaks expire.

By now you may know....Obama is insisting that Republicans first extend the tax break for 98 percent of earners, while top earners should have rates rise.

NEW POLL: DEFICIT AND DEBT SHOULD BE PRIORITIES

A poll released on Friday show 83 percent of respondents "believe the budget deficit and national debt should be the top priorities for elected officials in Washington." Next priority ranking in the Allstate--National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll: 83 percent Social Security and Medicare, followed by good-paying jobs at 79 percent. Those findings sum up how hard it is to make a fiscal cliff deal: people want it all.


JOBLESS RATE FOR NOVEMBER, 7.7 PERCENT, DROPS TO FOUR YEAR LOW: HELPS OBAMA
ON FISCAL CLIFF

The drop in the rate may further embolden Obama and bolster the perception he wants that he is steering the nation towards an economic recovery. If the number had jumped, Republicans would have been all over the president. With the good news, Obama can stay focuses on his top priority--extending the tax breaks for the 98 percenters.

AFSCME, SEIU, NEA: DON'T TOUCH MEDICARE, MEDICAID AND EDUCATION IN FISCAL CLIFF BATTLE

Obama, however, is not immune from pressure from his left flank. Three top Democratic-allied unions, AFSCME, SEIU and the NEA are launching Friday a television ad campaign aimed at lawmakers in Virginia, Missouri, Ohio and Montana to "protect" Medicare, Medicaid and education funding in fiscal cliff dealmaking.

BOEHNER ON FRIDAY: DEMOCRATS "SLOW-WALK" TO "EDGE OF FISCAL CLIFF"

Despite the upbeat jobs report, House Speaker John Boenher (R-Ohio) used the peg to accuse Democrats of slow-walking to the fiscal cliff:

Said Boehner, "The Democrats' plan to slow-walk our economy to the edge of the fiscal cliff instead of engaging in serious talks is a threat to our economy. Republicans have offered a balanced proposal to avert the cliff that includes spending cuts and tax reforms the president once supported; the White House has only offered a joke that couldn't pass the House or the Senate. Republicans passed bipartisan legislation stopping the tax hikes and replacing the defense sequester to avert the fiscal cliff; Senate Democrats talked openly about driving off of it. And while the president insists on raising small businesses' tax rates instead of cutting spending, small business hiring plans have plummeted. That takes jobs away from the American people at the very time small businesses are struggling to create them.

"The Democrats' slow-walk strategy is unfair to taxpayers, unfair to small businesses, and unfair to all those looking for work. If the president doesn't like our plan, he has an obligation to send us one that can pass both houses of Congress as quickly as possible. We're ready and eager to work with him on such a proposal."

As 2012 winds down...the White House beer brewing video featuring Sam Kass, White House chef, Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives and University of Chicago Lab school alum is the top food video, according to Obamafoodorama, the website of record for food and food policy in the Obama White House. So far, this video has had 511,824 views

WASHINGTON--The only thing we know for certain about the future of First Lady Michelle Obama is when she has to move her family out of the White House in January, 2017.

Mrs. Obama has never expressed any interest in running for office--she has signaled quite the opposite--but Public Policy Polling ran a survey pitting Mrs. Obama against Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in a hypothetical match--and Mrs. Obama came out ahead.

From PPP:

- If Michelle Obama decided she wanted to follow the Hillary Clinton route once her husband leaves office in 2016 and go to the Senate, she'd have the upper hand on Mark Kirk. She leads him 51/40 in a hypothetical head to head. Kirk's approval numbers are ok with 34% of voters approving of him to 19% who disapprove. But those numbers are no match for the first lady, who's seen positively by 60% of voters to 33% with a negative one.

-President Obama's home state approval rating is 57% with 41% of voters disapproving- those are solid numbers but he can't match Michelle's popularity.




UPDATED...

Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 6, 2012
25 days to the fiscal cliff

Still no fiscal cliff deal....(but did you expect one so soon?)

The GOP House leaders sent members home on Wednesday, since in their view nothing much was going on... meanwhile President Barack Obama told the Business Roundtable on Wednesday the GOP is not going to use the debt ceiling to hold him hostage again...Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also talked over the phone.

Obama will head to Northern VIrginia to visit a middle class family to dramatize the impact on middle class families of letting tax breaks expire Dec. 31. To that end, the White House is generating state-specific impact studies, including for Illinois.

WHITE HOUSE RELEASES FISCAL CLIFF ILLINOIS IMPACT OVERVIEW

Read the PDF right Middle_Class_Report_-_Illinois.pdf.pdf

RUMBLINGS OF A DEAL

There are some Republicans urging colleagues to drop opposition to Obama's insistence on letting tax rates rise for top earners. For an overview, click to the Washington Post story HERE.


WHAT OBAMA TOLD THE BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE ABOUT THE FISCAL CLIFF

Key excerpts:

Now, the question I think on the minds of a lot of you is how do you get there -- because I know that, speaking to many of you privately, you agree with this approach. I've been struck by the number of CEOs who said, we're willing to pay slightly higher taxes if it means that we've got the kind of certainty and stability over the long term that allows us to invest and hire with confidence. So most of the folks in this room I think are onboard for a balanced plan.

The problem that we had up until fairly recently -- and this was extensively debated during the campaign -- was the belief that either, A, we could balance our budgets entirely on spending cuts, or a variation that has emerged is, is that we can do so while still lowering rates simply by closing loopholes and deductions. And you've heard from my team, but let me just repeat, we don't have any objection to tax reform, tax simplification, closing loopholes, closing deductions. But there is a bottom-line amount of revenue that is required in order for us to get a real, meaningful deficit reduction plan that hits the numbers that are required for us to stabilize our debt and deficits. And all the math that we've done -- and we analyzed this stuff pretty carefully -- shows that it is not possible for us to raise the amount of revenue that's required for a balanced package if all you are relying on is closing deductions and loopholes.

Let me amend that. It is possible to do, theoretically; it is not possible or wise to do as a practical matter. And the reason is, is that in order for us to raise the amount of revenue that's needed just by closing deductions and loopholes for high earners, we'd have to, for example, eliminate or severely cap the charitable deduction. And folks in this room, you guys are not only CEOs -- I can't imagine there's a person here who doesn't sit on a number of non-for-profit boards, university boards, hospital boards. In your respective communities, you are supporting an entire infrastructure that is the glue that holds our communities together. So the notion that somehow we're going to just eliminate charitable deductions is unlikely.

What that means is, is that any formula that says we can't increase tax rates probably only yields about $300-$400 billion, realistically. And that's well short of the amount of revenue that's needed for a balanced package.

So what we've said instead is let's allow higher rates to go up for the top 2 percent -- that includes all of you, yes, but not in any way that's going to affect your spending, your lifestyles, or the economy in any significant way; let's make sure that 98 percent of Americans don't see a single dime in tax increases next year, 97 percent of small businesses don't see a single dime in tax increases next year -- and by doing that alone we raise almost a trillion dollars without any adverse effects on the economy.

Let's combine that, then, with some additional spending cuts and some long-term entitlement reform that can get us to a number close to $4 trillion, which stabilizes our debt and our deficits relative to GDP for at least a decade, perhaps more.

That's our plan. That's what we've presented. The holdup right now is that Speaker Boehner took a position I think the day after the campaign that said we're willing to bring in revenue but we're not willing to increase rates. And I just explained to you why we don't think that works. We're not trying to -- we're not insisting on rates just out of spite or out of any kind of partisan bickering, but rather because we need to raise a certain amount of revenue.

McCONNELL ACCUSES OBAMA OF "POWER GRAB' ON THURSDAY MORNING

From the Senate floor, here is what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to say:

"Yesterday afternoon, I came to floor and offered President Obama's proposal on the fiscal cliff to show that neither he, nor Democrats in Congress, are acting in good faith in these negotiations.

"With just a few weeks to go before a potentially devastating and entirely avoidable blow to the economy, the President proposed a plan that the members of his own party won't even vote for.

"So I think it's safe to say at this point that the President isn't interested in a balanced agreement. He's not particularly interested in avoiding the fiscal cliff. And he's clearly not interested in cutting spending.

"What the President's really interested in, as we all learned yesterday, is getting as much taxpayer money as he can -- first by raising taxes on small businesses that he thinks make too much money, and then on everybody else-- not so he can lower the debt or the deficit, but so he can spend to his heart's content.

"For months, the President has been saying all he wants is to raise taxes on the top two percent so he can tackle the debt and the deficit. Yesterday, he finally revealed that's not really his true intent. By demanding the power to raise the debt limit whenever he wants by as much as he wants, he showed what he's really after is assuming unprecedented power to spend taxpayer dollars without any limit.

"This isn't about getting a handle on deficits or debt for him. It's about spending even more than he already is. Why else would he demand the power to raise the debt limit on his own?

"And by the way, why on earth would we even consider giving a President who's brought us 4 years of trillion dollar deficits unchecked authority to borrow - he's the last person who should have limitless borrowing power.

"Look: the only way we ever cut spending around here is by using the debate over the debt limit to do it. Now the President wants to remove that spur to cut altogether. It gets in the way of his spending plans.

"I assure you: it's not going to happen. The American people want Washington to get spending under control. And the debt limit is the best tool we have to make the President take that demand seriously.

"The American people want us to fight to cut spending. It's a fight they deserve. We're happy to have it."

At swearing-in ceremonies for elected officials, the focus is on the inaugural speeches. But the political pedigree of the judges who administer the oaths of office also can often tell you a lot about the newly minted public servants.

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This is the booking photo of state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), who was arrested Wednesday for allegedly trying to carry an unloaded gun and ammunition clip aboard an aircraft at O'Hare Airport. The photo was released late Wednesday by Chicago police.

Gun charge or not, Dems not giving up on Trotter just yet.

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trotter_mug_dec5.jpgDespite his arrest on gun charges, party leaders were not ready to back away from state Sen. Donne Trotter late Wednesday and his aspirations for higher office, saying they were awaiting more facts.

"I need to sit down and talk to him face to face and find out what exactly happened," said Frank Zuccarelli, who is chairing the effort to slate a candidate for the 2nd congressional district. The special election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. is scheduled for February and the field is growing by the day. Before his arrest, Trotter, who lives on the South Side, was thought to be a top-tier candidate.

Zuccarelli, who is the committeeman for Thornton Township, has publicly said he would back Trotter during slating. So far on Wednesday, that hadn't changed.

"I am supporting him and he is my friend, I'm sure there is a good explanation for what happened," said Zuccarelli. He said he had only communicated with Trotter by text. Trotter let him know he had been arrested. "We have to sit down and talk...I'm sure he's together, Donne's together. I've got confidence in him, he's a good man."

The head of the Cook County Democratic Party, Joe Berrios, said ultimately it would be up to Trotter to decide if he's going to pull out of the race.

"It's not for me to determine whether he wants to run or not," said Joe Berrios, the head of Cook County Democratic Party. "The committeemen will take that into consideration. If it is a felony, he would have to stand trial. At the end of the day, it's going to be his decision. All I know, is he is a state senator, and a very good one."

Zuccarelli said he last saw Trotter late Tuesday at a Thornton Township meeting that began at 8 p.m.

Trotter was arrested Wednesday, charged with attempting to bring a handgun onto a place at O'Hare Airport, Cook County State's Attorney's office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said. Trotter had explained he had been at a job with a security firm the night before and forgot he had the weapon and some ammunition in his bag.

trotter_Dec5.JPGSPRINGFIELD-State Sen. Donne Trotter's legislative voting record on guns doesn't exactly align with his alleged actions Wednesday.

Despite prosecutors charging him for allegedly trying to bring a gun onto an aircraft at O'Hare Airport, the South Side Democrat once voted against allowing Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons.

Trotter later voted "present" on another measure that would have softened the penalty for getting caught with a concealed weapon.

His arrest brings the number of sitting Illinois lawmakers facing criminal charges to three, which is a high-water mark in recent political memory at the Statehouse. Trotter now joins state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago), who faces a federal bribery charge, and state Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), who was indicted last week on federal bank fraud charges.

In 1995, Trotter was a "no" vote on a measure carried by state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) that would have legalized carrying concealed weapons in Illinois.

During floor debate, Trotter stood to challenge Dillard on the propriety of allowing Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons without having to go through extensive training or psychological evaluations

"What you're doing here [is] just basically creating part-time police officers who have not gone through the extensive training, who have not had the psychological evaluations, who will be getting out there who feel now that they're--they are stronger, they are badder, they are tougher because they have this nine-shooter on their hip," Trotter said.

Here is a full copy from the Senate transcript of Trotter's final argument against Dillard's bill during that May 4, 1995, floor debate:

"Yes, just before I close, I understand your intent, and -- and they're good intentions from your part; however, there's a lot of individuals who don't have those intentions. There's a lot of individuals out here who do look at this as an opportunity to be that vigilante, to be that support person to the police officer who isn't there, which is one of the things we addressed just yesterday when we voted for-- for -- in arming and also in empowering part-time police officers. What you're doing here just basically creating part-time police officers who have not gone through the extensive training, who have not had the psychological evaluations, who will be getting out there who feel now that they're--they are stronger, they are badder, they are tougher because they have this nine-shooter on their hip. And this just isn't it. And we're talking about are we allowing or just curtailing those who not have been convicted. According to this, it's an applicant who has not been convicted of a forcible felony under the laws of this state or any other jurisdiction within twenty years of the applicant's application for the flrearm - the FOID card, or at least twenty years have passed since the end of that period of imprisonment may, in fact, hold a weapon. So we're saying that here's someone who might have had a felony, who can still get a gun, just twenty years -- under the FOID card but they haven't done nothing in twenty years, but --now we're going to give them a gun. I think we--you're really stretching it here when you're empowering these individuals with these weapons."

The Dillard bill wound up failing by a 28-29 vote, two votes shy of the 30-vote threshold needed to pass the measure over to the House.

Two years later, gun-rights advocates were back with legislation that would weaken the penalty for those caught carrying a concealed weapon in Illinois. The bill, sponsored by former state Sen. Ed Petka (R-Plainfield), would have lessened the penalty from a low-grade felony to an even lower-grade misdemeanor.

Trotter voted "present" on that bill, which passed the Senate and the House but was amendatorily vetoed by former Gov. Jim Edgar and ultimately died.


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A new poll released by the Public Policy Polling shows that Illinois residents are feeling no sympathy for our imprisoned ex-governors.

And the lack of forgiveness is almost even for both Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan.

The new polls shows that 75 percent of those polled believe that President Obama should not pardon Blagojevich who is serving a 14-year sentence on corruption. Just 15 percent said he should be pardoned.

Ryan, who is just months from completing his 6 1/2 year term, did fairly better with 20 percent believing he should be pardoned. Still, 70 percent disapproved of a Ryan pardon.

Q7 Do you think President Obama should pardon
former Governor Rod Blagojevich, or not?

He should 15%
........................................................
He should not
75%
..................................................
Not sure 10%
..........................................................
Q8 Do you think President Obama should pardon
former Governor George Ryan, or not?

He should 20%
........................................................
He should not
70%
..................................................
Not sure 10%

For cross tabs, click here

New poll: Illinois may be ready for same-sex marriage

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Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images


Three states have approved same-sex marriage through popular vote. A new poll suggests that Illinois may be next.

The poll, run by Public Policy Polling, showed that there was narrow support for a move toward same-sex marriage with 47 percent for and 42 percent against. But when it isolated the data to look at voters younger than 45, the approval jumped way up to 58 percent for and 37 percent against.

Some other odds and ends from the recent poll:

• If Michelle Obama decided she wanted to follow the Hillary Clinton route once her husband leaves office in 2016 and go to the Senate, she'd have the upper hand on Mark Kirk. She leads him 51/40 in a hypothetical head to head. Kirk's approval numbers are ok with 34% of voters approving of him to 19% who disapprove. But those numbers are no match for the first lady, who's seen positively by 60% of voters to 33% with a negative one.

• President Obama's home state approval rating is 57% with 41% of voters disapproving- those are solid numbers but he can't match Michelle's popularity.

• Most Illinoisans don't have much sympathy for two jailed ex-governors, Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan. On the issue of pardons for either ex-govs, 75 percent of respondents said Blago should not receive a pardon and 70 percent said Ryan should not receive a pardon.

• 63% of Illinois voters say their favorite NFL team is the Bears with 10% picking the Packers and 4% the Steelers. No one else registers above 2%. Jay Cutler has a 41/15 statewide favorability rating, good numbers but not exactly comparable to Aaron Rodgers' 87/3 in the state of Wisconsin.

SPRINGFIELD-A coalition of public-employee unions wasted little time in shooting down a new, bi-partisan pension plan presented Wednesday by more than 20 House members.

The plan, pushed by Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Rep. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), would reel in cost-of-living raises, increase the retirement age and pass state pension costs for educators to the downstate and suburban school systems that employ them.

"We were not consulted in the development of this plan, but our preliminary review suggests that there are significant problems with HB 6258 that need to be worked through," according to a statement released Wednesday afternoon by the We Are One coalition, which includes the Illinois Education Association, AFSCME Council 31, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois AFL-CIO.

"The pension debt was caused by the state's failure to make actuarially adequate pension contributions, not by public employees, but like its predecessors, this proposal essentially balances the pension debt on the backs of teachers, police officers, nurses, caregivers, and other public servants both active and retired," the statement said.

"It is also unclear at this juncture whether this proposal is constitutionally or actuarially sound," the group concluded.

Bill_Daley_Dec5.JPGFormer White House chief of staff William Daley predicted more young relatives would get involved in politics after his nephew Patrick Daley Thompson became the first family member to take elected office this week.

"In one form another they've all been involved in public service or politics," said Daley, who again is publicly pondering a run for governor. "I think they'll stay that way. Some are active in charities ... A couple of [Thompson's] cousins helped him out on his campaign [for commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago] and stuff like that. They seem to have interest. Others have no other interest. They're like, 'Uh-huh, thanks, we're out of this stuff.' So, they're all unique. They're all different."

Daley mused about the future of the local political dynasty in an exclusive interview with the Sun-Times after Thompson was sworn into office Tuesday. The comments came as Daley broke the family's silence to react to Monday's indictment of another nephew -- Richard "R.J." Vanecko -- on an involuntary manslaughter charge.

In his inaugural speech, Thompson singled out Daley for his support as he was growing up.

"I'm his godfather," Daley explained. "I give him more grief than any of the other [uncles]."



Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 5, 2012
26 days to the fiscal cliff

Updated

The latest on fiscal cliff wrangling.....

BOEHNER TO OBAMA: 'WE NEED A RESPONSE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE''

On Wednesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said President Barack Obama is obliged to offer a fiscal cliff plan that has a chance of passing the House and Senate--not like the deal the White House offered up to congressional leaders last week.

Said Boehner at a press conference, "You know, this week we made a good-faith offer to avert the fiscal crisis and that offer included significant spending cuts and reforms, and it included additional revenue. And frankly it was the balanced approach that the president's been asking for.

"Now we need a response from the White House. We can't sit here and negotiate with ourselves.

"Our targets and framework are things that we can all agree on, and it's exactly how we approached our discussions in the Biden Group, my discussions at the White House a year and a half ago and, for that matter, in the Joint-Select Committee.

"And if the president doesn't agree with our proposal and our outline, I think he's got an obligation to send one to the Congress - and a plan that can pass both chambers of Congress. If you look at the plans that the White House has talked about thus far, they couldn't pass either house of the Congress.

"We're ready and eager to talk to the president and to work with him to make sure that the American people aren't disadvantaged by what's happening here in Washington."


OBAMA UPS ANTE: WANTS TO ELIMINATE DEBT CEILING

Obama is meeting with Business Roundtable leaders Wednesday morning, part of a drive to woo supporters from tough precincts:

From a White House Official: "On Wednesday, the President will deliver remarks and take questions from business leaders at the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable. As more and more business leaders speak out on the need for Congress to act on a balanced plan that protects the middle class, the President will continue to make the case that our nation's businesses need the certainty that middle class families won't see their taxes go up at the end of the year.

"The President will highlight why it would hurt our economy and our nation's businesses if we do not find a solution to avoid another debt ceiling crisis, and will ask the business leaders for their help in supporting an approach that resolves the debt limit without drama or delay. He will also highlight that any plan must include balance and that is why he has put forward a detailed, comprehensive plan that specifies how he would raise revenue from the wealthiest, curb spending, and reform entitlements, and he will reiterate that he will not accept a deal that doesn't include higher rates on the wealthiest individuals."

CROSSROADS GPS HITS OBAMA ON FISCAL CLIFF

The GOP allied Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, aka Crossroads GPS launched a paid TV campaign on Wednesday to slam Obama over his steadfast, oft-stated goal of not extending tax breaks due to expire Dec. 31 for top earners.

From Crossroads: "The new spot will run on national cable networks - including CNN, CNBC, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Headline News, and MSNBC - for one week starting Thursday in a $500,000 buy. The spot will also run on Sunday talk shows in the Washington, DC designated market area."



McCONNELL CALLS OBAMA BID TO VOID DEBT CEILING A "POWER GRAB'

Don Stewart, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications for Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is thumbs down on Obama's bid to link the fiscal cliff deal making to lifting the debt ceiling. Said Stewart in a Wednesday morning memo"

"While we're certainly flattered that the administration praised one piece of the Budget Control Act, they seem to have amnesia on the rest of the plan. Namely, the debt ceiling was raised last year only after the White House agreed to at least $2 TRILLION in cuts to Washington spending, and agreed to be bound by the timing and amount set by Congress--not his own whim.

"The President wants to have the ability to raise the debt ceiling whenever he wants, for as much as he wants, with no responsibility or spending cuts attached. This is an idea opposed by Democrats and Republicans alike; it's a power grab that has no support here."


SPRINGFIELD-A bipartisan coalition of Illinois House members intends to step forward with a new stab at pension reform Wednesday as talks between the legislative leaders and Gov. Pat Quinn on a potential January pension deal appear stalled.

But the prospects of this latest effort appear iffy, at best, since it will continue to contain a controversial provision opposed by the Republican legislative leaders that would make downstate and suburban school districts pick up the state's tab on educator pensions.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), a leader on pension issues in the House is spearheading the latest effort, is being joined by a group of lakefront Democrats and two Republicans - state Rep. Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) and state Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights).

The package aims to reel in automatic, compounding 3-percent cost-of-living adjustments.

A source familiar with the plan said the COLA would apply only to the first $25,000 of annual pension income, easing the financial hit on low-earning retirees but giving those with gold-plated pensions less of an annual bump in pay.

Also, their plan would provide a COLA to those who either were 67 or older or who had been retired from the state payroll for five or more years. No longer could someone retire and expect an immediate 3-percent annual increase in their pensions under this plan.

The proposal does away with language, as Quinn had favored, that would have given retirees the choice of keeping their 3-percent COLAs or state-subsidized health insurance but not both.

It also will contain a provision under which the state would be compelled to pay its share of pension costs into the state retirement systems or open the door to potential legal action. In the past, the state has skipped making pension systems, euphamistically once called "pension holidays."

But one of the most contentious issues remains in the Nekritz-GOP package: shifting pension costs for suburban and downstate educators to local school systems. Under their plan, there would be an annual .5-percent increase in pension costs to school districts rather than establishing a concrete timeframe of 12 or more years to phase in those costs, as Quinn and others have embraced.

Nekritz would not comment on specifics of the plan that will be presented at a Wednesday press conference. Because the House has cancelled its Thursday session, the plan couldn't be acted on in the House until January, if then.

The cost shift, as it's commonly known, is the component that could most easily blow up a pension-reform deal in January. Even though Nybo and Harris support the idea, they appear to remain in the minority among Republicans, who see that shift as a de facto property-tax increase of $20 billion or more on suburban and downstate school systems.

Both Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) have insisted on having bipartisan support on a pension-reform package - and that it include a cost-shift.

But Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said there has not been any softening within her caucus on the question of shifting pension costs to suburban and downstate school systems, and that a cost-shift is a non-starter for most Republicans.

"The fact of the matter is the proposal on the table isn't acceptable to us. Period. The end," she told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rahm Releases New Americans Plan

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday unveiled a ground-breaking plan aimed at integrating immigrants into the mainstream of Chicago's economy and growing their small businesses to create up to 50,000 jobs.

If Nate Silver doesn't wind up as someone's figure of the year for 2012, it will be an injustice to the man who was nearly perfect in his call of the 2012 presidential election. Silver did for politics what he had previously done for baseball and did it on the largest stage possible - the New York Times. He faced his share of criticism down the stretch but, in the end, his math was impeccable. He also has a new book out and has made the media rounds, including a recent visit to the Chicago Humanities Festival earlier this fall, the video of which is now below. It's a great talk from a great mind and is recommended listening/viewing.

SPRINGFIELD-As many as 250,000 undocumented immigrants could legally drive on Illinois roads under landmark legislation that passed the state Senate Tuesday in a debate colored by sniping between two top Latino lawmakers.

Under the plan, which passed 41-14, with one voting present, undocumented immigrants who have lived in Illinois for one year would be eligible to receive a temporary visitors drivers license that would last for three years.

In exchange, those motorists would have to undergo rules-of-the-road training, take a vision test and show proof of auto insurance. The licenses couldn't be used to purchase firearms, to board aircraft or register to vote.

"I don't view [this] as a reward for illegal activity. I don't think that's our jurisdiction...It's not our decision to decide what's going to happen to the 12 million plus undocumented folks in the U.S.," said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the bill's chief Senate sponsor.

"But we are responsible for our roadways. And we have an obligation to our citizens to make them safe. We have an obligation to save lives, and that's what we're doing by passing this bill," Cullerton said.

Every Latino senator stood to speak in support of the measure, including state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), who used his floor speech to blast U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) for a "lack of leadership" on immigration reform at the federal level.

"There's no need for this bill to be voted on today. Let me remind you this is a federal issue. This is an issue that our Congress has failed the people of Illinois. This is an issue that my congressman, Luis Gutierrez, for the 19 years as a federal congressman, has failed the people of Illinois. He has failed my community," Sandoval said.

"The Mexican residents in my community have been failed by his leadership, his lack of leadership, and the leadership of Congress to do what's right and pass immigration reform," he said.

Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, has been a recognized leader on immigration reform, acting as a national surrogate for President Barack Obama's presidential campaign with Latino voters in swing states.

"The congressman congratulates the state of Illinois and Senate for passing its drivers license bill, and anyone who doesn't see that Congressman Gutierrez is the national leader on immigration doesn't really understand the immigration issue," Gutierrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin said in a shot back at Sandoval.

The congressman and Sandoval haven't had a contentious relationship until recently, when they were on opposite sides in a hotly contested legislative race and now in the town president campaign in Cicero.

On Monday night, Gutierrez attended the kickoff of Juan Ochoa's campaign to unseat Cicero Town President Larry Dominick, a political ally of Sandoval's.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Dominick's administration employs Sandoval as a $4,200-a-month media consultant, who translates town press releases into Spanish. Sandoval is the only state lawmaker on the payroll of a municipality that he represents in Springfield.

Sandoval and Gutierrez also were on opposite sides in the legislative contest between state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano (R-Elmwood Park) and Democrat Kathleen Willis. Gutierrez broke ranks with his party and endorsed Saviano, while Sandoval backed Willis, who wound up winning.

In late October, Sandoval stormed a community forum in Melrose Park, where he stood on a chair and shouted his disdain for Republicans before being jeered and escorted out of the church where both Saviano and Willis were in attendance. At the time, Gutierrez characterized Sandoval's disruptive display as "not the kind of America we need."

During 50 minutes of floor debate on the measure, which now moves to the House, only one senator spoke in opposition.

"Equal protection under the law and under the Constitution certainly goes hand in hand with equal responsibility to follow the law. I am in favor of legal immigration but oppose illegal immigration," said Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora).

"Now we're expected to believe that folks who are already breaking the immigration law, the employment law, the traffic laws will now follow the insurance law," he said.

But other Republicans backed the plan, including Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who was among 11 members of the Senate GOP to vote for the measure. Here is the roll call on Tuesday's Senate vote.

"I really do believe this is a fair and honest attempt to get more people to be tested, to know the rules of the road, let them know they need to have insurance," she said.

"Time will tell if it's effective, but I think this is a very good-faith effort to move forward on a public-policy problem with a public-policy solution," she said.

State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) and Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), both potential 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidates, voted for Tuesday's measure in a telling sign of how important the Latino vote is becoming in Illinois.

In Brady's case, he also represents a district that is home base to State Farm and Country Financial, two major auto insurance carriers that could see a spike in auto insurance policies for immigrants if the bill passes both chambers and is signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, as expected.

"Tens of thousands of people in this state get into accidents without insurance," Brady said, framing the legislation as a safety issue. "There are fatal accidents that occur because people haven't been trained or tested."

The license initiative was spearheaded by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, whose members packed the Senate for floor debate and burst into applause when the bill passed.

"The highway safety legislation is a good first step and proof that both parties can put the politics of fear and scapegoating aside and work on practical solutions that keep our roads and families safe," said Lawrence Benito, the organization's chief executive officer.

SPRINGFIELD-The Illinois House dealt Gov. Pat Quinn a blow Tuesday in his bid to impose an assault weapons ban in the state.

By a 78-28 vote, the legislative chamber voted to override Quinn's rewrite of original legislation that would have made it legal for gun owners to buy ammunition online from Illinois suppliers. It's already legal to do so from out-of-state suppliers.

"It's a pro-business bill. It simply said that residents in the state of Illinois could buy ammunition over the Internet from Illinois companies. Currently, they can buy ammunition over the Internet from all 49 other states but cannot buy it from an Illinois company," said state Rep. Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton), the bill's chief House sponsor.

"The governor amendatorily vetoed this bill and put language in it that made it into an assault weapons ban. I personally believe this challenges the integrity of the legislative process, that it was unconstitutional, and I ask you join me in overriding this veto," he said. "I think it would be a travesty to let this occur to our legislative process."

Even supporters of an assault weapons ban, including state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), joined Costello's call.

"While the governor's heart may have been in the right place and I agree with the language he put in this bill, it seems very clear the governor overstepped his constitutional bounds in making the changes he made in this bill," Lang said.

The Senate already overrode Quinn's amendatory veto of Senate 681, so the House's vote makes the original bill state law. Seventy-one House votes, seven less than Tuesday's roll call, were necessary to complete the override.


It is an increasingly crowded field for the the 2nd Congressional district, but attorney Anne Marie Miles believes she should be a standout.
Miles, an attorney and self-styled community activist who is floating the idea for running for Congress, said she doesn't need the salary and is "leaning in the direction" of rejecting any congressional benefits should she be elected. She said she's tired of politicians who use their offices to amass power and build their personal resumes.
Miles said she's interested in running because so many politicians have lost sight of what the job is about -- serving others.
"We really need congressmen and senators who are committed to public service," she said in an interview at the Union League Club Tuesday. "We don't need people who are just interested in what the job does for them."
Miles spent the last two years working on the South Side, working pro-bono to help men and women expunge their criminal records.
She's worked an estimated 200 to 300 hours for free, she says, to help get men and women back into the job market and boost some of the most in-need communities in Chicago. Many of these people, she says, have arrest records with no convictions. But if they apply for certain jobs, it still shows up on their rap sheets.
Miles admits she doesn't have any clout-heavy backing of committeemen, who are to slate a candidate after a Dec. 15 slating meeting. She said she believes she could have the backing of key community groups and churches on the South Side with whom she's worked.
Miles is the latest to announce interest in Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old seat. State Sen. Toi Hutchinson and former State Rep. Robin Kelly announced they were in the race this week. Last week, a host of other contenders announced, including Debbie Halvorson, Anthony Beale and Mel Reynolds.

SPRINGFIELD-Republicans put up a united front Tuesday behind a legislative push that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain temporary drivers licenses, reversing a stance from five years ago when the GOP voted en masse against the idea.

The General Assembly's two GOP leaders, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), pledged their support for the measure after being no-shows last month during a rally organized by supporters of the bill and attended by Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and others.

"I think this make a lot of sense, and for those who want to say this is the wrong thing to do and there's all kinds of potential for mischief, be very clear this doesn't allow someone to use this temporary form of identification to vote, board a plane...and this will in my opinion make our roads safer," Cross told reporters.

Radogno praised the legislation, too, which would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses for three years at a time, so long as they undergo training and prove they have auto insurance. As many as 250,000 motorists in Illinois are believed to be undocumented immigrants.

"I think the effort we have before us today is a good one. I think we've made a lot of strides to address the concerns people have raised and that we should move forward. I think there definitely is a public-safety advantage here," she said.

Radogno and Cross were joined at Tuesday's Illinois coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights event by former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar, GOP state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano (R-Elmwood Park) and state Sen. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove).

The GOP got socked at the polls last month, in part, because Latino voters tended to migrate to Democrats nationally and in Illinois, but both Radogno and Cross denied that was a motivating factor in their decision to embrace Senate Bill 957.

"We had been talking before the election," Cross said. "We've worked with [ICIRR CEO] Lawrence [Benito] on other issues. ... We had a meeting -- Skip, Lawrence and I -- a month out just to talk about this before the election, so I don't feel like we're Johnny Come Latelys."



Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 4, 2012
27 days to the fiscal cliff

UPDATED....

Good morning to another day where Congress and the White House wrangle over solving--even a bit--our national fiscal woes. President Barack Obama is not budging from his demand of Republicans that they first deliver on extending tax breaks for 98 percent of earners first before any concessions are made on the spending side. On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders sent Obama a letter with some offers on Monday. My post with the details is HERE.

Excerpt from Boehner letter: "With the fiscal cliff nearing, our priority remains finding a reasonable solution that can pass both the House and the Senate, and be signed into law in the next couple of weeks. The best way to do this is by learning from and building on the bipartisan discussions that have occurred during this Congress, including the Biden Group, the Joint Select Committee, and our negotiations leading up to the Budget Control Act."

UNDERSTANDING THE FISCAL CLIFF IMPACT: POLL

A new Washington Post poll reveals many of the respondents--all adults-- do not understand the impact of falling off the fiscal cliff. Read the poll HERE.

Q: How well do you feel you understand what would happen if these automatic spending cuts and tax increases were to go into effect in January?

28 percent Very well

29 percent Fairly well

22 percent Not too well

19 percent Not at all well


WHITE HOUSE RALLYING GOVERNORS ON FISCAL CLIFF: GOV. QUINN STAYING IN ILLINOIS

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden huddle with governors today at the White House to "discuss the actions we need to take to keep our economy growing and find a balanced approach to reduce our deficit." Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is not attending. Spokesman Brooke Anderson told me he is staying put because of the veto session.

OBAMA, CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS NOT MOVED BY BOEHNER: PELOSI'S NEXT MOVE

Today, watch for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to roll out what is called a discharge petition to try to force a vote just on extending the tax breaks for the 98 percenters. The Speaker controls what votes occur in the House and this is a tactic to try to get around him. Very hard to do, however.

Anyway....The Obama White House, Pelosi and other Democrats turned thumbs down on the Boehner offer.

On CNN on Tuesday morning, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) told host Soledad O'Brien, "the Republican plan, failed the very first test of fairness and it went after the middle class. And it goes -- it protects all millionaires and billionaires from the Bush tax cuts, or keeping the Bush tax cuts, at the same time that it asks the middle class to carry the load.

"It also, by the way, went after seniors. It tells them you shouldn't get that $21 on average cost-of-living increase for the cost of your food, your medicine, but we'll go ahead and let the millionaires keep the $78 thousand or so they get in one year in tax breaks.

"So the president was right. This fails the test of fairness. And at the same time, it almost acts as -- the Republican plan is almost as if the Republicans didn't watch the last two years of campaigning in an election where essentially what they proposed was the Romney plan."

BOEHNER REACT TO THE DEMOCRATIC REACT

Boehner spokesman Brendon Buck pushes back: "With our offer yesterday, Republicans have made a good faith effort to find common ground and avoid the fiscal cliff. .....

"...By any measure, the Republican offer is more balanced than the President's proposal. The GOP offer includes $800 billion in new revenue through tax reform, coupled with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts as well as $200 billion in savings from a revision to the way inflation is calculated (this provides savings on the both the revenue and spending side). Compare this to the President's plan which includes $1.6 trillion in tax increases and just $400 billion in spending cuts - which are wiped out by stimulus and other measures he's demanding. Our ratio: $800B to $1.2T. His ratio: $1.6T to $0. Tell me which is more balanced.

"In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill." - There is absolutely nothing to support this statement. The GOP offer proposes revenue only from the same top earners that the President talks about. Independent budget groups have demonstrated there are multiple ways to achieve the level of revenue in our offer without raising rates or touching the middle class. You'll recall, the level of revenue in our plan is what was barely able to pass the Senate earlier this year (with 51 votes). Given that the makeup of Congress has not changed, seeking anything more is a waste of precious time.

".....With the clock ticking, Republicans continue to be the only ones making any effort to avoid the fiscal cliff. Despite jobs being on the line, it seems the White House is not willing to stand up to the 'cliff jumpers' on the Left. For a President who claims to understand the peril of second-term overreach, we're sure setting up to see a nice reminder of how that tends to work out.

Anne Marie Miles, a lawyer and self-styled community activist, who once ran for 5th ward alderman, announced today she is "considering running" for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s recently vacated seat.

Miles is expected to hold a news conference 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Union League Club to formally announce, according to a spokesman.

Miles has spent the last year working "pro bono" "helping people on Chicago's South Side to seal and expunge criminal records," according to a press statement. In 2010, Miles ran unsuccessfully for 5th ward alderman.

Miles becomes another in an ever-growing list of candidates jumping into the race. The primary will be held in February.

Meanwhile on Monday, State Sen. Toi Hutchinson held a news conference in Chicago Heights to formally announce she is running. Robin Kelly announced on Sunday. State Sen. Donne Trotter, former Congressman Mel Reynolds, onetime Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson as well as Ald. Anthony Beale have all thrown their hats in the ring.


To say Dan K. Webb wears multiple hats is putting it mildly.

Webb is on a team that represents Jesse Jackson Jr., who just resigned from Congress amid a federal investigation.

He's also a special prosecutor.

And today the investigation he led (aided by the incredible reporting by Tim Novak, Chris Fusco and Carol Marin) ended up bringing a politically explosive indictment against a family member of the powerful Daley dynasty.

Here's our story:


Richard J. "R.J." Vanecko -- a grandson of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley -- has been indicted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, accused of throwing the punch that led to the 2004 death of 21-year-old David Koschman of Mount Prospect.

And others could still face charges. The grand jury that returned Monday's indictment is continuing to look into whether criminal charges should be filed regarding the handling of the Koschman case by police and prosecutors.

The Chicago Police Department and the Cook County state's attorney's office -- first under Richard Devine, then under current top prosecutor Anita Alvarez -- had declined to charge Vanecko while his uncle was mayor.

But a Chicago Sun-Times investigation prompted Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin to reopen the politically explosive case and appoint former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb as special prosecutor to lead the new investigation.

Vanecko, 38, who has been living in California, will be required to turn himself in and appear in court for arraignment later this month.

To continue reading: Click here



Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 3, 2012
28 days to the fiscal cliff

White House top fiscal cliff dealer, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, hit five Sunday shows, made no new offers and said Congress has to first extend most the tax breaks expiring on Dec. 31. Which is exactly the same place the White House was and is.

Good Monday morning....

BOEHNER ON NEGOTIATION 'SILLINESS'

Ya can't blame team Obama for trying but....

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) swatted down Sunday the White House bid to get Congress to lift the debt ceiling totally as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. Not going to happen, Boehner said on Fox News Sunday.

"Silliness," Boehner told Chris Wallace. "Congress is never going to give up this power."

PELOSI TO BOEHNER: SCHEDULE A VOTE NOW ON EXTENDING TAX CUTS

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday upped pressure on Boehner to do a stand-alone vote on extending federal tax breaks due to expire on Dec. 31--the ones that cover 98 percent of us.


From Pelosi: "The message from the American people is loud and clear: we need solutions not stalemates.

"We continue to call on Speaker Boehner to immediately schedule a vote on the Senate-passed bill to extend tax cuts for the middle class, which the President has said he will sign immediately. Congressional Republicans must heed the call of middle class families during this holiday season, end the uncertainty and stop holding middle income tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for the rich. If Speaker Boehner refuses to schedule this widely-supported bill for a vote, Democrats will introduce a discharge petition to automatically bring to the floor the Senate-passed middle class tax cuts.


"We must find a bold, balanced and fair agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff. The clock is ticking and stalemates are a luxury we cannot afford."

OBAMA'S STRONGER HAND


The fiscal cliff dramas of the day are with President Barack Obama overtly focused more on nuclear proliferation and Bulgaria for a chunk of the day

Over at Bloomberg News, Julianna Goldman & Roger Runningen gauge how much more power Obama got in dealing with the Republicans as a result of his re-election.

Their lede: "President Barack Obama's stance on the so-called fiscal cliff talks is a bet that his re-election gave him the political clout to force Republicans to accept higher taxes on upper-income Americans as a step toward reducing the deficit.

"Obama's posture was shown in the proposal Timothy F. Geithner laid out for congressional leaders last week: a reprise of the president's prior budget proposals, with $1.6 trillion in tax increases and about $350 billion in health care savings, primarily in Medicare. He also asked for an Aug. 1 deadline for decisions on income tax overhaul and further spending cuts. The fiscal cliff refers to $607 billion in spending cuts and tax increases that would take effect in January unless Congress acts."



Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 2, 2012
29 days to the fiscal cliff


Good Sunday morning.....

Are we going over the cliff?

Most of the fiscal cliff sparring is taking place on the Sunday shows: The White House booked Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on all five shows to push the Obama agenda. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called "Fox News Sunday" to appear to counter Geithner.

Here are highlights of guests on the shows.....

•NBC's Meet the Press: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform;


•CBS' Face the Nation: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Sen. Dianne Feinstein (R-CA); Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI); Mark Zandi, Moody's Analytics; Maya MacGuineas, Campaign to Fix the Debt; Rana Foroohar

•ABC's This Week: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Rep. Tom Cole, (R-OK);

•Fox News Sunday: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Rep. John Boehner (R-OH);


•CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA);


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Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 1, 2012
30 days to the fiscal cliff


CONTEXT ALERT

FACTS ON THE FISCAL CLIFF: FACTCHECK.ORG SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT

How did we get to this "fiscal cliff?" What does it mean? The non-partisan FactCheck.org has a new primer on the facts and figures related to the looming "fiscal cliff" battles. Check out the entire briefing HERE.

OBAMA SATURDAY ADDRESS: PUSHING CONGRESS (AGAIN) TO PRESERVE TAX CUTS, HUNTING FOR A FEW GOP VOTES

"If we could just get a few House Republicans on board," says Obama in his Saturday radio address as he hunts for GOP House votes to extend the tax cuts set to expire on Dec. 31.


REPUBLICAN SATURDAY ADDRESS: SEN. ORRIN HATCH HITS OBAMA ON THE FISCAL CLIFF

Excerpt: Hatch says, "... the President has an obligation to first steer us away from the fiscal cliff...But we'll never get there with the unserious plan the President proposed this week." As only 30 days remain, Sen. Hatch presses, "The longer the White House waits to get serious is a day closer to going over the fiscal cliff, and the harder it will be to find a solution."

COLD CALLING

On Friday, Josh Earnest a White House spokesman was asked if Obama was going to be talking to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). This is the exchange with the answer a non-reponse response.

Q And will the President talk to Boehner or McConnell today?

MR. EARNEST: I don't have any scheduling updates to read out but --

Q Can you keep us posted?

MR. EARNEST: I will try. As you know, the President will regularly have phone consultations with Congress that we don't often -- we don't read out every one.

Q Or often.

MR. EARNEST: But we'll do our best.