What’s Up: December 7, 2012?

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· Detroit councilwoman to Obama: We voted for you, now bail us out

The city of Detroit faces a major financial crisis and one member of city council thinks President Barack Obama should step in and help.

City Council member JoAnn Watson said Tuesday the citizens support of Obama in last month’s election was enough reason for the president to bailout the struggling city.

“Our people in an overwhelming way supported the re-election of this president and there ought to be a quid pro quo and you ought to exercise leadership on that,” said Watson. “Of course, not just that, but why not?”

Nearly 75 percent of Wayne County voters pulled the lever for Obama in November.

“After the election of Jimmy Carter, the honorable Coleman Alexander Young, he went to Washington, D.C. He came home with some bacon,” said Watson. “That’s what you do.”

Young served as Detroit’s mayor for 20 years and served as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1977 to 1981.

The White House has expressed no plans to bailout the cash-crunched city that some experts say could run out of money by the end of the year.

The federal government has bailed out cities in the past, however. In 1975, President Gerald Ford extended more than $2 billion in credit to New York City to help it avoid a financial collapse. Story Continued:


· Court casts doubt on Obama’s recess appointments – A federal appeals court on Wednesday questioned not only President Obama’s controversial January recess appointments but the entire system of such appointments, using oral arguments in a case to cast doubt on whether presidential powers can ever be exercised unless Congress has adjourned for good.

The case involves a challenge to Mr. Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in early January — during a time when the Senate was holding pro forma sessions every three days, specifically for the purposes of denying him the chance to make those appointments.

Mr. Obama argued that since the full Senate wasn’t actually meeting regularly, lawmakers were technically in an intra-session “recess” and he could use his constitutional power to make appointments not needing the chamber’s consent. But two judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit questioned not only that move, but every recess appointment made other than during a traditional inter-session recesses that close out each year.

“Once you remove yourself from the principles set forth in the Constitution — inter-session versus intra-session — you are adrift,” said Judge Thomas B. Griffith.

He was joined in his pointed questioning by Chief Judge David B. Sentelle, who said the clause in the Constitution giving presidents recess appointment powers refers to “the recess,” which he said suggests the one at the end of each year, not the breaks Congress regularly takes for holidays, weekends or other reasons.

If the court were to rule that way, it would upset the balance that has been maintained over decades, and would conflict with another appeals court’s precedent — though that didn’t bother Judge Sentelle.

“Forget about a century of precedent — go back to the Constitution,” he told Beth Brinkmann, the Justice Department lawyer who argued the case for the Obama administration.

She warned that going that route would change the system of checks and balances fundamentally.

“There is a long, long history that would be disrupted, and also disrupt the balance of power,” she said.

She said there have been nearly 300 recess intra-session appointments over the last century, and both the Senate and the president have accepted them as legitimate.

The Constitution uses the words “session” and “recess” to refer to several different types of business and breaks. One use of “recess” is for a break from normal legislative business, whether for an hour for lunch or for several days while lawmakers go home. The other is at the end of each year’s session, when Congress adjourns sine die, meaning it won’t meet again.

That has produced two centuries of confusion.

Judge Griffith at one point questioned why the court should be involved at all in what amounts to a dispute between two other branches of government.

“Why drag us into it?” he said.

He also questioned the lawyers challenging the recess appointments, wondering why the Senate itself wasn’t contesting Mr. Obama’s moves. Instead, only Senate Republicans, who are the minority party, have sued. Story Continued:

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· “Fiscal cliff” talks frozen, Obama lobbies big business – With talks between the White House and Congress over a deal to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” all but frozen, President Obama today turned his focus to the business community, urging attendees at the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable to help him lobby Congress for a “balanced” deal that includes tax hikes for the nation’s wealthiest earners.

Mr. Obama, who has recently redoubled his efforts to rebuild a strong relationship with the business world after years of tension, is currently locked in a stalemate with House Republican leaders over averting the so-called “cliff,” a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to go into effect next year. The president insists he will not sign off on a proposal that does not increase tax rates for households earning $250,000 or more per year, while Republicans have repeatedly reiterated their refusal to raise tax rates.

So far, there’s little reason to believe a deal is in the works: The White House and House Speaker John Boehner each offered up plans reflective of their party’s ideologies, both of which were swiftly rejected by the other side. Moreover, as CBS News’ Major Garrett reported this morning, there were no substantive conversations yesterday at any level at all between the White House and Boehner on the framework for a deal.

In his remarks today, Mr. Obama attempted to win the Business Roundtable to his side of the political argument, outlining his opposition to the GOP proposal and essentially accusing Republicans of holding the global economy hostage.

“I am passionately rooting for your success, because if the companies in this room are doing well, then small businesses and medium-sized businesses up and down the chain are doing well,” he said. “Obviously the global economy is still soft. Europe is going to be in the doldrums for quite some time… Everybody’s looking to America because they understand that if we’re able to put forward a long-term agenda for growth and prosperity that’s broad based here in the U.S., that confidence will increase not just here in the U.S. but will increase globally.”

But, he argued, “what’s holding us back [from that goal] right now, ironically, is a lot of stuff that is going on in this town. And I know that many of you have come down here to try to see, is there a way that we can break through that logjam.”

“Nobody wants to get this done more than me,” he said.

The president went on to outline his objections to the GOP plan, which proposes to raise revenue by eliminating unspecified tax loopholes and deductions.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Mr. Obama’s most recent proposal to stave off the “fiscal cliff” calls for $1.6 trillion in new revenues, achieved in part by letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans, as well as $600 billion in spending cuts and a handful of other measures. The Republican offer put forward a counter offer that is made up of $900 billion in spending cuts and $800 billion in new revenues achieved through tax reform that preclude rate increases.

“Speaker Boehner took a position I think the day after the campaign that said, we’re willing to bring in new revenue but we’re not willing to increase rates. And I’ve just explained to you why we don’t think that works,” Mr. Obama said. “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.”

The president also warned Republicans against embracing a plan to use a February battle over the debt limit to get their way on tax rates. “That’s not a game that I will play,” he said.

Even as Democrats ramp up pressure on Boehner to accept a deal including tax hikes, however, the speaker has so far shown few outward indications that he’s willing to defy the conservative wing of his caucus, particularly amid conservative criticisms of the plan he did offer up.

Boehner reiterated his call today for the president to officially respond to his proposal, and dismissed the notion that Mr. Obama’s re-election serves as a mandate on raising tax rates.

“If the president doesn’t like our offer, he has a responsibility to put forward a plan that can pass both chambers of Congress. We’re ready to talk with the president immediately about a plan that can pass this chamber. We’re ready any time he is,” he said. “We can’t… negotiate with ourselves.”

The Ohio Republican defended his plan to increase revenue by closing tax loopholes and deductions, which Democrats have targeted as, among other things, a way to get around raising rates for the wealthy.

“The revenues we are putting on the table are going to come from, guess who? The rich,” said Boehner. “There are ways to limit reductions, close loopholes and have the same people pay more of their money to the federal government without raising taxes, which we believe will harm the economy.”

Boehner did not, however, provide further details on which loopholes and deductions would be closed, nor did he say how such closures would add up to the amount of revenue increases for which the president is calling.

In the meantime, House Democrats continue to push Republicans to agree to decouple the middle-income Bush-era tax cuts from the high-income cuts so that low rates for all Americans aren’t held “hostage” in the fight over rates for the top two percent of earners.

“A good first step would be to pass the middle income tax cut,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters today. “If we can take the middle income tax cuts off the table, then we have ended the hostage-taking that Republicans have been engaged in.”

But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., answered Pelosi’s cry with a firm reiteration of the party line.

An obsession to raising taxes isn’t going to solve the problem,” he told reporters today. “We can’t just keep borrowing money and raising taxes and expecting the problem to go away. That is our point to the president.” Story Continued:

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· DeMint jokes about firing Boehner after he quits Senate – Tea party leader Senator Jim DeMint joked about forcing John Boehner from the House, after DeMint shockingly quit the Senate on Thursday.

DeMint had been attacking Boehner, the Speaker of the House, on Tuesday, but now DeMint will leave his influential Senate post to run the conservative Heritage Foundation.

DeMint went on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show on Thursday afternoon, to explain his decision and take another shot at Boehner.

Limbaugh asked DeMint if Boehner had forced him out of office. “It might work a little bit the other way, Rush,” DeMint replied.

DeMint said his new job would be part of an effort to better market the Republican party to more people.

“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in the United States Senate for the past eight years, but now it’s time for me to pass the torch to someone else and take on a new role in the fight for America’s future,” he said in a statement on Thursday morning.

During the 2010 election, DeMint helped tea party candidates get elected, and during the fiscal cliff debates, he’s been a very vocal advocate of a hardline policy of no new tax revenues, in any form, in a compromise bill.

But in the last election cycle, DeMint played a less-vocal role, especially when it came to criticizing less-conservative GOP candidates.

His move to the Washington-based think tank will position DeMint to advocate for conservative issues in upcoming elections.

“This is an urgent time,” DeMint told The Wall Street Journal in an interview on Thursday, “because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections.”

On Tuesday, DeMint ripped Boehner in a public statement that many observers saw as a sign of a deep split in the Republican leadership over the fiscal cliff.

“Speaker Boehner’s $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more, while not reducing our $16 trillion debt by a single penny,” DeMint said, in terse language usually reserved for Democrats.

Boehner is involved in tough negotiations with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats over the fiscal cliff, a collection of legally mandated tax hikes and spending cuts that go into effect in January.

The House speaker has proposed $800 billion in new tax revenue, from savings on loopholes and deductions, as an olive branch to the Democrats. Boehner’s price would be steep spending cuts to social and entitlement programs.

Without DeMint within the Senate, Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have one less obstruction in their talks with the Democrats.

However, McConnell hasn’t publicly supported Boehner’s proposal, and many conservatives don’t approve any increase in tax revenues.

And DeMint isn’t leaving the Senate until January. Story Continued:


· Pelosi Rips House GOP for Breaking


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today ripped House Republicans for scheduling a five-day break amid the ” fiscal cliff” debate, asking why the chamber is not in session “trying to build confidence” and “find common ground” with only 26 days left until a mix of steep tax hikes and spending cuts take effect.

“Here we are, Thursday in December. The talk around here is what’s going on at the negotiating table. Is anything going on at the negotiating table?” Pelosi, D-Calif., wondered at her weekly news conference. “I can’t even explain to my constituents why Congress isn’t in session now trying to at least build bridges of understanding and representing.”

The GOP-controlled House concluded legislative business Wednesday afternoon after a light floor schedule this week. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor cancelled one day of legislative business previously scheduled for today, and also cut next Friday from the calendar. Cantor, however, announced Wednesday that he has added an unspecified number of days to the legislative calendar the week of Dec. 17.

“I’m really surprised that the Republicans would leave,” Pelosi said. “With all that needs to be done, [are House Republicans] avoiding the conversation? Sounds like people don’t want to be in town for some reason.”

At least one top House Republican, however, stayed at the Capitol: House Speaker John Boehner.

President Obama and Boehner spoke on the phone Wednesday afternoon, but no details were released about the conversation. An aide to the speaker said that “the lines of communication are open” today.

Pelosi, who said she remains in close contact with the president, has repeatedly described a Republican counter-proposal this week as “an assault” on the middle class, seniors and the country’s future. She also criticized the proposal for failing to detail how Republicans would specifically achieve savings if they refused to raise tax rates on the wealthiest taxpayers.

“Why are we not here getting information?” Pelosi said. “What are we talking about here? What are we talking about when we say restructure entitlements? What does restructure mean? Destroy? Wither on the vine? Voucherize? Or does it mean let’s work together to make these stronger and improve benefits for the beneficiaries?”

But with a stalemate on tax rates, even negotiations between White House and congressional staffs seem to have ground to a halt.

“It’s hard to explain to anyone why there’s even a mystery in the conversation that we shouldn’t be having the upper 2 percent of our population paying its fair share,” she said. “How do you start by saying we want to know what you’re going to do to seniors before we will do what we know we have to do, which is make the wealthy pay their fair share?”

Pelosi also doubted whether the GOP proposal, which called for $600 billion in health-care savings through changes such as increasing the eligibility age for Medicare, would create adequate savings.

“Show me the money. I don’t even know why that is something that people think is going to produce money. What are we going to do with people between 65 and 67?” she said. “It’s not even the right thing to do, first and foremost, but is it a trophy that the Republicans want … to raise the rates for the wealthiest people in our country?”

Lawmakers return to the House for legislative business Tuesday, three weeks before the “fiscal cliff” kicks in.

The Senate is in session today. Story Continued:


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