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Pelosi, Roskam, Southern Illinois University:19 days to fiscal cliff

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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.

PELOSI: RAISING MEDICARE AGE "DOESN'T PRODUCE MONEY"

One concept that has been floating around is to raise the Medicare eligibility age--currently 65. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is deadset against this. She is making an accounting argument to avoid being called a safety net hugging San Francisco liberal. Pelosi makes a basic, important point in a CBS interview on Wednesday morning with Charlie Rose: Upping the age does not generate that much cash.

The exchange, with underlining courtesy your scribe:

REP. PELOSI: That is true. However, we want what happens to be fair and we want it to be able to work. And one of the things that we object to is raising the Medicare age.

MR. ROSE: But it's not a red line for you.

REP. PELOSI: Well, it is a -- it's something that says don't go there, because it doesn't produce money. In other words, what do we need here? We need resources, we need cuts, and we need growth. High tax cuts for the wealthy increase the deficit and do not produce jobs.

Raising the minimum wage -- excuse me -- raising the retirement age does not get you that much money. So you're doing a bad thing when it comes to seniors and you're not achieving your goal. So we're saying does it work? Is it fair? Or is it just a trophy that the Republicans want to take home, whether or not it achieves -- contributes to reducing the deficit and creating jobs?


OBAMA APPROVAL RATINGS STRONGER

President Barack Obama remains emboldened in dealing with boxed in Republicans who will be blamed for raising all of our federal taxes if Congress does not act by Dec. 31. A new Bloomberg poll out Wednesday morning shows Obama's approval ratings still below 50 percent--but the best in years.

From Bloomberg: "The poll reflects the growing optimism that contributed to President Barack Obama's re-election victory. Forty-eight percent of respondents say they approve of his handling of the economy as housing prices rise, household debt falls and employment grows, with 48 percent disapproving. That's his best showing since September 2009, according to the poll of 1,000 adults conducted Dec. 7-10."

HOUSE DEM POLITICAL OPERATION HITTING VULNERABLE HOUSE REPUBLICANS

Pelosi's team is trying to get a stand-alone vote on preserving tax breaks for the 98 percent of us. Since House Speaker John Boenher (R-Ohio) controls what gets on the floor, the Democrats are trying to get what is called a discharge petition going to force a vote. Democrats need GOP signatures to force a vote; that's going to be tough. In the meantime, the Democratic House political operation is taking some pokes at Republicans who do not want to go against their own leadership.

From the DCCC on Wednesday morning: "In the newest phase of the GOPHostageTakers.com campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) launched web or radio ads today targeting 21 vulnerable House Republicans who have refused to sign a discharge petition that brings the Senate-passed middle class tax cuts to the House floor for a vote. House Republicans continue to hold the middle class tax cuts hostage and are threatening to send the economy over the fiscal cliff in order to get more budget-busting tax breaks for millionaires."

None of the 21 are from Illinois.

GOP CROSSROADS PRESSURE ON SENATE DEMS

The GOP allied Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) is running radio spots to pressure Democrat senators:

From Crossroads: "The ads urge U.S. Senators Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Kay Hagan (North Carolina), Tim Johnson (South Dakota), and Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia) to support significant spending cuts as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations." This is a $240,000 buy.

WHAT THE FISCAL CLIFF MEANS TO SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

While most of the attention is over federal taxes (income, payroll, dividends, capital gains) that will rise if Congress falls off the cliff, there are also the automatic cuts kicking-in if there is no deal.

Southern Illinois University Chancellor Rita Cheng is highlighting what this means in the real world at the SIU Carbondale campus.

From SIU: "Right now more than 650 SIU students stand to lose benefits from the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant with a hard stop on January 1. The grants, for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need, are worth a total of $831,000, or an average of about $1,247 per pupil - just for SIU Carbondale alone. A report from Sen. Tom Harkin estimated that nearly 1.4 million students in the U.S. will receive SEOG awards in 2012-2013."

ROSKAM ON FISCAL CLIFF
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)