Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times @ 2:06 pm ET: "Republicans responded to the president’s statement angrily, accusing him of 'moving the goal posts' just when a deal was in reach."
President Obama spoke about the fiscal cliff at about 1:35 pm ET today, saying an agreement was "within sight," but "not done":
Lori Montgomery & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were close to a deal Monday to cancel historic tax hikes for most Americans. But they were still hung up on spending, with Democrats resisting a Republican proposal to delay automatic spending cuts for just three months."
John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden engaged in furious overnight negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff and made major progress toward a year-end tax deal, giving sudden hope to high-stakes talks that had been on the brink of collapse, according to sources familiar with the discussion." ...
... New York Times story, by Jonathan Weisman, here.
Lori Montgomery & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Vice President Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell were locked in urgent talks late Sunday over the 'fiscal cliff' after Democrats offered several significant concessions on taxes, including a proposal to raise rates only on earnings over $450,000 a year.... Democrats abandoned their earlier demand to raise tax rates on household income over $250,000 a year...." ...
... Jonathan Chait of New York: "The erosion [of Obama's 'bright line' on tax cuts] signals not only a major substantive problem in its own right, but it also raises disturbing questions about Obama's ability to handle his entire second term agenda.... Obama may think his conciliatory approach has helped avoid economic chaos. Instead, he is courting it." CW: I thought Biden was the negotiator. Whose bright idea was it to concede for no good reason?
Jonathan Weisman & John Broder of the New York Times: "Negotiations over a last-ditch agreement to head off large tax increases and sweeping spending cuts in the new year appeared to resume on Sunday afternoon after Republican senators withdrew a demand that any deal must include a new way of calculating inflation that would lower payments to beneficiary programs like Social Security and slow their growth." CW: that is some good news. ...
... Update. New lede: "Senate leaders on Sunday failed to produce a fiscal deal with just hours to go before large tax increases and spending cuts were to begin taking effect on New Year's Day, despite a round of volatile negotiations over the weekend and an attempt by Vice President Joseph R. Biden to intervene.
Lori Montgomery, et al., of the Washington Post: "Still no deal. There were signs of renewed effort in the talks to resolve the 'fiscal cliff' crisis late Sunday afternoon. For one thing, direct talks had begun between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Biden. Republicans exiting a mid-afternoon caucus meeting said that McConnell had excused himself to take a call from the vice president."
The Post is liveblogging negotiation "news."
Zachary Goldfarb & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "For all the posturing of the last few weeks, both sides see a measure of political upside in going over the 'fiscal cliff' -- or, at the least, an advantage in waiting until the last minute, since they want to avoid drawing the ire of their most loyal supporters by appearing to cave too quickly.... Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Sunday reiterated a view she has pressed repeatedly with her Democratic colleagues: Going over the cliff is better than agreeing to a bad bargain."
Dion Nissenbaum & Damian Paletta of the Wall Street Journal report that "The Pentagon is preparing to notify its entire civilian workforce to prepare for furloughs if Congress and President Barack Obama are unable to reach a deal before Jan. 2 to avert automatic spending cuts. A senior defense official said Sunday that the Pentagon would notify 800,000 civilian workers to brace for furloughs in the new year, meaning the workers would be ordered to take mandatory leave without pay for a certain period." CW: The story is subscriber-firewalled, so I can't link it for you, but if you Google "pentagon rolling layoffs" & click on the Journal story, you can read it. (This is a method that often -- tho not always -- works for stories trapped behind a paywall. I think Google will allow you to do this a limited number of times over some prescribed period, but I've never hit my limit.)
Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times writes a level-headed piece on the consequences of the tax-&-spending battle: For one thing, "In the event no compromise is found..., the Congressional Budget Office and many private economists warn that the sudden pullback in spending and the rise in taxes would push the economy into recession in the first half of the year.... The economy could shrink by 0.5 percent over all of 2013.... 'If we have a recession, it's unforgivable,' said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. 'For the first time in modern history, we will have a self-inflicted recession in the U.S.'" ...
... The Times also has a helpful chart about what will happen if an agreement isn't reached. One feature of the sequestration that has received little attention: payments to Medicare providers will drop by 27 percent. CW: I think this could matter not just to doctors, but to the public, if many doctors decide not to take new Medicare patients.
Paul Krugman whacks Fix the Debt: "What's happening now is that all the [Pete] Peterson-funded groups are trying to exploit the fiscal cliff to push a benefit-cutting agenda that has nothing to do with the current crisis, using artfully deceptive language ... letter -- to hide the bait and switch. [Starbucks CEO Howard] Schultz apparently fell for the con. But the rest of us shouldn't."
Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "In clearest sign yet that President Obama has abandoned hope of averting the so-called fiscal cliff in the next 48 hours, he used a rare-Sunday show appearance to come out swinging at Republicans, something he's so far avoided doing so as to not poison relations with his negotiating partners." CW: see yesterday's Commentariat for the full interview.
Tim Noah of The New Republic: "As usual, the party that's having a hard time grasping how much power it holds is the Democrats, specifically the White House. President Obama previously (and stupidly) suggested he might be willing to go up to a $400,000 threshold for higher tax rates. So if a deal is struck before midnight, it may well include that higher threshold."
** Rick Ungar of Forbes on"Why Congress Cannot Operate without the Bribing Power of Earmarks." Thanks to reader Madeleine B. for the link.
Donovan Slack of Politico: "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack ... said that unless Congress can pass a farm bill, the agricultural sector of the economy will be devastated, and that will have ripple effects felt by almost every American. 'Consumers, when they go in the grocery store, are going to be a bit shocked when instead of seeing $3.60 a gallon for milk, they see $7 a gallon for milk,' he said during an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN's 'State of the Union.'"
Sen. Lugubrious Graham (R-S.C.) plans to default on the national debt (link fixed)-- a debt incurred by the Congress of which he happens to be a member -- if elderly Americans don't give up enough benefits to suit him. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress has the story.
Pocket Change for the Little People. Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "Banking regulators are close to a $10 billion settlement with 14 banks that would end the government's efforts to hold lenders responsible for foreclosure abuses like faulty paperwork and excessive fees that may have led to evictions, according to people with knowledge of the discussions."
New York Times Editors: "Sexual assaults at the three military academies are at a record high, according to a December Defense Department report.... Meanwhile, an unpublished report by the Veterans Affairs Department shines a troubling light on the experience of veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.... Advocates for military women say that as long as women are barred from official combat roles and underrepresented in the academies, the imbalance helps a toxic culture of disrespect -- and criminality -- flourish."
David Barboza of the New York Times: "Relatives of a top Chinese regulator profited enormously from the purchase of shares in a once-struggling insurance company that is now one of China's biggest financial powerhouses, according to interviews and a review of regulatory filings. The regulator, Dai Xianglong, was the head of China's central bank and also had oversight of the insurance industry in 2002, when a company his relatives helped control bought a big stake in Ping An Insurance that years later came to be worth billions of dollars."
CW: Eliot Spitzer thinks the Justice Department will get off the dime in 2013 & start prosecuting Wall Street's bad actors. I wish:
Dave Barry's Year in Review 2012. "It was a cruel, cruel year -- a year that kept raising our hopes, only to squash them flatter than a dead possum on the interstate."
"The Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated." AP: "Germany's respected news weekly Der Spiegel mistakenly published an obituary Sunday for former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, hours after a family spokesman said the 88-year-old was recovering from illness."
NEW. Katie Glueck of Politico: "Twitter erupted after Hillary Clinton was hospitalized Sunday night because of a blood clot, as users blasted those who had earlier claimed that the secretary of state was faking illness." ...
... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed has a rundown of prominent conspiracy theorists who asserted that Hillary Clinton was faking her illness. I'm sure they've all sent her flowers, apologies & get-well wishes by now.
New York Times: "Carl Woese, a biophysicist and evolutionary microbiologist whose discovery 35 years ago of a 'third domain' of life in the vast realm of micro-organisms altered scientific understanding of evolution, died on Sunday at his home in Urbana, Ill. He was 84."
New York Times: "Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, a Nobel Prize-winning neurologist who discovered critical chemical tools that the body uses to direct cell growth and build nerve networks, opening the way for the study of how those processes can go wrong in diseases like dementia and cancer, died on Sunday at her home in Rome. She was 103."
NBC News: "The body of the gunman who killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the nation's deadliest mass shootings was claimed last week by his father for burial, according to a family spokesman."
Washington Post: "The blood clot that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suffered is inside her skull but did not result in a stroke or neurological damage, her spokesman said late Monday. The clot was discovered during a routine MRI on Sunday as Clinton was recuperating from a fall and concussion...."
New York Times: "Seven [National Football League] coaches and five general managers were fired by lunchtime in a day unequaled for its turmoil in recent memory."
Reuters: "The U.S. Senate on Sunday approved prominent antitrust attorney William Baer to head the Justice Department's Antitrust Division 10 months after he was tapped by President Barack Obama. The Senate voted 64-26 to approve Baer's nomination, which ran into problems with some Republicans because of secret information in an FBI background report." CW: it's ridiculous to require Senate approval for appointees at the undersecretary level.
New York Times: "President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela is facing 'new complications' arising from a respiratory infection following cancer surgery in Cuba, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said in a televised statement on Sunday night."