Speaking at Central High School in Manchester, N.H., President Obama is heckled by Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Speaking at Central High School in Manchester, N.H., President Obama is heckled by Occupy Wall Street protesters.
As it typically does when President Obama goes on the road, the Romney campaign is bracketing the president's visit to New Hampshire today. But this time, it's doing it with its first TV advertisement of the race -- and it’s negative.
The ad begins -- featuring grainy video and ominous music -- with Obama campaigning in New Hampshire back in October 2008. "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose," Obama is captured saying in the spot.
But, as the New York Times points out, “[T]he line, which is perhaps the spot’s most devastating moment, is also the one that seems to be the most taken out of context. In fact, at the time, Mr. Obama was referring to something that an aide to his then opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona, had said in reference to the McCain campaign — not Mr. Obama, then or now.”
In fact, the Romney campaign pretty much admits this with its documentation of the ad's assertions.
OBAMA: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”
Obama: “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.” (Senator Barack Obama, Remarks, Londonderry, NH, 10/16/08)
The Obama campaign pounced on Romney's advertisement, calling it "deceitful" and "dishonest." And the Democratic National Committee has accused Romney of being a "serial deceiver."
"Mitt Romney is a serial deceiver -- and his deceptions know no bounds," the DNC said in a release. "Romney will deceive about his own record, the record of his opponents and his positions on the issues. And when Mitt Romney is caught deceiving – he doubles down and deceives even more."
The Romney campaign defended its use, saying the “tables have turned” on the president. “President Obama and his campaign are doing exactly what candidate Obama criticized,” Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho said. “President Obama and his team don’t want to talk about the economy and have tried to distract voters from President Obama’s abysmal economic record.”
After hitting Obama, the Romney ad pivots -- with soaring string music -- to what he wants to do. He hits on Tea Party talking points: “getting rid of programs, turning programs back to states”; “get rid of ‘ObamaCare’; “moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in”; “high time to bring those principles of fiscal responsibility to Washington, D.C.” And, with a shot of a manufacturing worker, he says, he’ll “make America a job-creating machine like it has been in the past.”
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain is claiming his race will help him win over African American voters.
In a seven-page mailer sent to Iowans over the weekend, Cain writes, "as a descendent of slaves I can lead the Republican Party to victory by garnering a large share of the black vote, something that has not been done since Dwight Eisenhower garnered 41 percent of the black vote in 1956."
But while Cain might believe he'll garner a larger share of the black vote in a head-to-head match-up against President Obama, this month's NBC/WSJ poll — which had an oversample of 400 African-American respondents — tells a different story.
In a hypothetical general election matchup, according to the poll, Obama gets support from 93 percent of African Americans, while Cain gets just 6 percent.
Against Romney, Obama performs similarly among black voters. Ninety-two percent of African Americans would support Obama, versus just six percent for Romney. According to the 2008 exit polls, Obama got 95 percent of the African American vote.
Even with sliding poll numbers, Cain has attracted large crowds at recent events — but supporters attending Cain rallies are overwhelmingly white.
The mailer is the latest sign of Cain's increased fundraising haul at work. The campaign raised more than $1 million for its “Iowa Fund,” and earlier this month Cain announced he had brought in more than $9 million since Oct. 1.
It didn't seem like mission impossible just two weeks ago.
Inside a private room on the first floor of the U.S. Senate, seven members of Washington's debt "super committee," munching beef jerky and talking taxes, thought for the first time a deal might be at hand.
Nine days after that November 7 meeting, it was all but over. Accusations of media leaks and bad faith had led to a fatal breakdown of trust among committee members fundamentally divided over the ideology of taxation and spending.
Trust that had been so painstakingly built by the six Republicans and six Democrats since the panel first began meeting nine weeks earlier unraveled at alarming speed.
By November 16 the super committee was essentially dead, according to interviews with senior aides and officials with intimate knowledge of the talks.
The pivotal moments came on November 7 and 8 in the private first floor office belonging to the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Max Baucus, one of the Democrats who sat on the debt panel.
The November 7 evening meeting, which lasted nearly three hours, offered the first glimmer of hope that the panel might succeed in reaching a deficit-cutting agreement to meet its mandate: find at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over 10 years.
"November 7 was kind of like the climax so to speak," one Republican congressional aide with knowledge of the negotiations said.
Inside Baucus's finance committee hideaway were seven of the 12 panel members: Republicans Pat Toomey, Rob Portman, Fred Upton and Dave Camp; and Democrats John Kerry, Max Baucus and Chris Van Hollen. The seven lawmakers convened at a critical moment for the debt panel, as the November 23 deadline for a deal was just over two weeks away.
Just like that evening, for the previous nine weeks both sides had been meeting largely in secret and had been relatively successful in keeping their discussions private and out of the press. In the coming days that was going to change.
Up to this point, trust had been built, and nurtured, on a committee formed after the debt limit crisis of the summer.
Kerry and Portman had discovered a mutual passion for cycling and regularly rode together. Committee members would often treat the other panel members to lunch during their meetings in Room 200 in the bowels of the U.S. Capitol.
Four dozen cupcakes were ordered to celebrate the birthday of Senator Patty Murray on October 11, but they were not destined for the super committee. The panel did not meet until the following day so the chocolate and red velvet cakes were sent to her office and eaten by her staff - although the panel members still sang Happy Birthday to their Democratic co-chair on October 12.
After a first meeting on September 8, the next three weeks were taken up with discussions over how many meetings should be held, and when and where. Murray and congressman Jeb Hensarling, her Republican co-chair, had to resolve who got to hold the gavel. In the end a compromise - something very rare in Washington - was agreed. They were to alternate it.
Give and take
When the November 7 Baucus meeting began, the seven members there were ready to get down to brass tacks - although the session did not start well, according to both sides.
It opened with a discussion of a new Democratic proposal to raise taxes by $1 trillion, cut spending by $1 trillion, and spend another $300 billion to stimulate the economy.
Top Talkers: The bipartisan debt super committee failed to reach a deal on trimming the nation's debt. In a joint statement, Democratic and GOP leaders acknowledged defeat. So what happens now? The Morning Joe panel – including the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, Random House's Jon Meacham, and former DLC chair Harold Ford Jr. – discusses.
The issue of tax increases had been a red flag for Republican negotiators all year, especially as most Republican members of Congress - including all six on the debt panel - had signed an anti-tax pledge authored by the powerful Washington conservative Grover Norquist.
"Grover Norquist has been the 13th member of the super committee without being there," Kerry lamented to CNN on Monday.
At the mention of $1 trillion in tax hikes, according to aides, two of the Republicans threw up their hands. One thumped the table with his fist to emphasize their adamant opposition.
And as usually happened when discussions had become tense on the panel, staff were asked to leave so that the committee members could "vent," one aide said.
But then things got interesting. Toomey, a conservative, offered a new proposal that for the first time for a debt committee Republican included the prospect of revenue increases, as well as spending cuts, as a way to start cutting America's massive $15 trillion national debt.
Toomey's proposal called for limiting tax deductions and claimed $250 billion in "static revenue" to be used for deficit reduction, and another $50 billion boost from greater economic activity as the result of reforming the tax code and lowering all tax rates.
"The attention shifted to Toomey. It became the counter offer to the initial Democratic offer," an aide said.
The Democrats immediately rejected Toomey's proposal on revenues as too low, but Kerry began to explore the idea of building on it.
Kerry threw in the "mutual idea" of means-testing Medicare benefits, the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled. Soon the discussion turned to how they could build on the Toomey plan, through other measures such as raising Medicare premiums and the sale of federal leases.
What initially became hardline opposition to the Toomey proposal became an opportunity for negotiation. "Maybe we can work a deal," the Republican aide quoted Kerry as saying.
"There was real optimism when they walked out of the room," the aide added.
But that was the high water mark for the debt super committee. Things were to change quickly.
"The Toomey offer was the beginning of the end," a senior Democratic aide said.
Democrats say that the following day, Nov. 8, Toomey's staff leaked details of his proposal to The Washington Post before they had had a chance to fully consider it.
Then Democrats say they received an analysis of Toomey's plan from the U.S. Congress's Joint Tax Committee which they say rendered the proposal unacceptable, because it would have represented "the largest percentage tax cuts for multimillionaires since Calvin Coolidge was president," in the early 1920s.
Democrats were coming to believe that Republicans were only interested in using the debt panel to cut taxes, not deficits.
Republicans, meanwhile, say they were becoming exasperated with Democratic refusal to consider any meaningful cuts to welfare programs including Medicare, Medicaid - which provides health insurance to the poor - and Social Security, the government pension system.
Between them, the three programs are set to devour 100 percent of federal tax income by 2047.
"Our Democratic friends were never willing to do the entitlement reforms," Republican John Kyl told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
By Veterans' Day, Nov. 11, talks of the whole panel were petering out. The mood was souring. A sub-group of Kerry, Baucus, Van Hollen, Portman, Upton and Camp had begun meeting and talking without the other members.
On that Friday, Murray walked to Hensarling's Capitol Hill office and said Democrats would accept the "framework" of the Toomey offer, but still wanted to negotiate how to get to his total dollar figure.
Meanwhile, on the Sunday night, Van Hollen, Baucus and Kerry convened in Murray's senate office to discuss a possible new proposal from Camp, Upton and Portman that would have increased on the Toomey offer.
Dressed casually, the four met from 8 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Next door, in an ante-room, Murray's staff ate snacks and watched the New England Patriots play the New York Jets.
But the following day, Republicans began to backtrack from any meaningful revenue offers, Democratic aides say. Murray also became exasperated by Republican claims that no counter-offer to the Toomey proposal had been made.
So on Wednesday, Nov. 16, Democratic staff were ordered to leak details of Murray's counter-offer to the media.
What was meant to be a secretive debt panel was now being undone by leaks. By then, aides say, trust had evaporated, and the work of the super committee was essentially over.
When John Boehner, the Republican House Speaker, and Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, met that week in Boehner's office, some thought they would launch an eleventh-hour rescue. The two met for just 15 minutes - and the work of the debt panel was barely mentioned.
Perhaps there is only one member of the committee that can put its failure into some perspective as the blame game of why it collapsed begins.
At an early breakfast meeting of the panel, Democrat James Clyburn, a veteran of the Civil Rights movement, rebuked his fellow committee members when they kept saying how hard it would be to strike a deal.
"Do you want to know what's hard?" Clyburn asked. "Desegregating South Carolina in the 1960s. I met my wife in jail."
Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.
The Associated Press
President Barack Obama, visiting the key battleground state of New Hampshire on Tuesday, targeted Republicans in Congress and those seeking to deny him a second term with a push to extend payroll tax cuts.
During a speech at a Manchester high school, the president argued that a failure to extend the tax breaks would hurt middle-class families already struggling amid a shaky economy, effectively daring congressional Republicans to block the extension and increase taxes.
"Don't be a Grinch. Don't vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays," Obama said.
But if Republicans are in Obama's sights, he's firmly in theirs, too.
Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is airing his first TV ads in the state, and they are sharply critical of Obama's economic record. He also ran ads in New Hampshire newspapers that say to Obama, "I will be blunt. Your policies have failed."
The president's trip to the state that holds the first presidential primary follows the collapse of the special congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee, which failed to reach a deal on $1.2 trillion in cuts. Democrats had hoped to tuck the payroll tax extension, as well as a renewal of jobless benefits for the unemployed, into a supercommittee agreement.
With that option seemingly off the table, the White House plans to push hard for a separate measure to extend the payroll tax cuts before they expire at the end of the year — and set up Republicans as the scapegoat if that doesn't happen.
The White House says a middle-class family making $50,000 a year would see its taxes rise by $1,000 if the payroll tax cuts are not extended.
Republicans aren't wholly opposed to the extension. In fact, party members sent the White House a letter in September stating that extension of the payroll tax cut is one element of Obama's $447 billion jobs bill where the two sides may be able to find common ground.
Some Republicans worry that the tax cut extension would undermine the solvency of Social Security pensions, and others are opposed to any effort to pay for the renewal by taxing the wealthiest Americans.
Obama wants to cut the payroll tax by another percentage point for workers, at a total cost of $179 billion, and cut the employer share of the tax in half as well for most companies, which carries a $69 billion price tag.
The issue could appeal to independent voters in low-tax New Hampshire, the presidential swing state Obama won in 2008. With Republican candidates blanketing the state with an anti-Obama message ahead of the Jan. 10 primary, the president and his surrogates, including Vice President Joe Biden, are seeking to steal some of the spotlight for their economic message.
It's been nearly two years since Obama visited New Hampshire. And on Tuesday, he'll find a state that has shifted distinctly to the right since his 2008 victory. Recent polls indicate that, if an election between the two of them were held today, Obama would lose by roughly 10 percentage points to Romney, who governed the neighboring state of Massachusetts.
Romney's print ads, in the form of an open letter, say the evidence on Obama's economic stewardship is "unequivocal" — his policies have "fallen short even by the standards your own administration set for itself."
"Far from bringing the crisis to an end, (they) have actively hindered economic recovery," the ad says.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
NBC’s Domenico Montanaro gives his first read on First Read this morning – the president heads to New Hampshire, where he’s no longer the favorite to win the state, Romney’s up with his first ad, and the blame game heats up on the Super Committee’s failure.
Obama goes back to New Hampshire, but has work to do … Obama can win reelection without Ohio, Florida, Virginia, or North Carolina, but NOT without winning New Hampshire … Bracket-ology: Romney’s first campaign ad – it’s negative and out of context, but the campaign defends it … These go to Eleven: It’s yet ANOTHER debate, and again on foreign policy … Super Committee’s epic fail, who gets the blame, why Obama didn’t get involved, and why a deal could still happen.
From NBC’s Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, Natalie Cucchiara, and Brooke Brower
*** Obama’s reversal of fortune in NH: New Hampshire has never been an easy state for Barack Obama. After his decisive win the Iowa caucuses -- and all the momentum that came with it -- New Hampshire Democrats and independents surprisingly sided with Hillary Clinton, which set the stage for the LONG Democratic primary in 2008. Ten months later, however, Obama easily won the state in the general election, besting John McCain (who had plenty of previous success in the Granite State) by nine points, 54%-45%. Yet when he returns to the state today to speak on his jobs legislation at 12:15 pm ET, Obama’s fortunes in New Hampshire have once again been reversed. An October NBC-Marist poll showed the president’s approval rating in the state at just 38%, and it had Mitt Romney beating him there 49%-40%. A more recent Bloomberg survey similarly showed Romney beating Obama by 10 points. This is Obama’s third trip to the Granite State as president, per NBC’s Alicia Jennings, but his first since Feb. 2010.
*** ‘Live Free or Die’: While New Hampshire contains just four electoral votes, it’s important to Team Obama in this respect: He can get to 270 electoral votes and win re-election without winning Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, or Virginia -- as long as he carries Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, plus all the states John Kerry won in 2004. But if Obama loses New Hampshire under that scenario? He falls short with just 268 electoral votes. And there are factors working against Obama in the Granite State, especially if Romney is the GOP nominee. For starters, Romney was governor of neighboring Massachusetts and owns a home in New Hampshire. What’s more, the Obama coalitions of young voters and minorities aren’t found broadly in the state; it’s 93% white, for example. And independents make up 42% of the state’s registered voters. His poll standing with this key group remains upside down.
*** Romney brackets Obama: As it usually does when Obama hits the road, the Romney campaign is bracketing Obama’s visit to New Hampshire -- but this time it’s doing it with its first TV ad of the race. Per NBC’s Jo Ling Kent, the advertisement will begin airing today on WMUR (at a buy of $134,000). Strikingly, Romney’s first ad is NEGATIVE. It blames Obama on the economy and then pivots (with soaring string music) to what Romney wants to do. He hits on Tea Party talking points -- “getting rid of programs, turning programs back to states”; “get rid of ‘ObamaCare’; “moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in”; “high time to bring those principles of fiscal responsibility to Washington, D.C.” And, with a shot of a manufacturing worker, he says, he’ll “make America a job-creating machine like it has been in the past.” After Obama’s speech in Manchester, N.H., Romney surrogates Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) will hold a conference call at 2:00 pm ET. And Romney took out a full page ad in the Union Leader, Concord Monitor, and Nashua Telegraph, calling it an “open letter to President Obama,” entitled, “Welcome to New Hampshire -- your policies have failed.” In it, he references the out-of-context attack that Obama thinks Americans are “lazy.”
*** Speaking of out of context: With grainy video, ominous music and President Obama with an echo, Romney’s ad uses this seemingly damning line from Obama: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” But, as the New York Times points out: “[T]he line, which is perhaps the spot’s most devastating moment, is also the one that seems to be the most taken out of context. In fact, at the time, Mr. Obama was referring to something that an aide to his then opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona, had said in reference to the McCain campaign — not Mr. Obama, then or now.” The Romney campaign defended its use, saying the “tables have turned” on the president. “President Obama and his campaign are doing exactly what candidate Obama criticized,” Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said. “President Obama and his team don’t want to talk about the economy and have tried to distract voters from President Obama’s abysmal economic record.”
*** Debate No. 11: Just two days before Thanksgiving, the Republican presidential candidates will hold their 11th debate of the cycle. It will be second-straight foreign-policy-focused debate. And it will be the first one since Newt Gingrich’s poll surge, as well as the first one since Herman Cain’s flubbed response on Libya. Gingrich leads, leads by the way, in a new CNN poll. The debate begins at 8:00 pm ET, and it’s co-sponsored by CNN, and conservative Washington think-tanks the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. It’s moderated by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and takes place in D.C.
*** The blame game: The Super Committee officially announced its failure yesterday, and while congressional Republicans and those running for president were blaming Democrats and President Obama, it was also striking that President Obama in his statement yesterday pointed his finger directly at congressional Republicans. “Despite broad agreement for such a broad approach,” Obama said, “There are still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to voices of reason and compromise coming from outside Washington.” Over the summer -- whether it was the debt ceiling or the FAA shutdown -- he referred to Congress as a whole. But yesterday, he singled out the GOP.
*** Three reasons Obama didn't get involved in Super Committee: (1) Members on both sides of the Super Committee asked the president NOT to get involved, NBC’s Kristen Welker reports according to White House officials; (2) He believes the deadline in many respects is artificial. If the automatic cuts don't kick in for a year, then there is time to come up with some other solution; and (3) It's good politics. Yes, he'll take short-term nicks with Republicans blaming him, but what if it failed and he had gotten involved? What if it passed, but they had to make painful cuts to social programs that would have upset his base? It's good to run against a Congress that's as unpopular as this one is. We've seen the president go down to Congress' level on lots of occasions, and he was criticized for it. This time, he stayed away and highlighted Congress’ inability to get things done on their own.
*** But here’s why something could still get done: Republicans are trying to find ways around the automatic Defense cuts, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reported on TODAY. But President Obama, noting that “one way or another” $2.2 trillion in deficit reduction will go into effect over the next 10 years, issued a veto threat. “I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending,” he said. “There will be no easy off-ramps on this one.” White House officials stress that the cuts don’t go into effect until 2013 and that the president is going to push for a “balanced” approach, NBC’s Kristen Welker reports. So, in the White House’s view, the real deadline is Dec. 31, 2012. The White House thinks the threat of hefty cuts to items important to both sides is a way to bring all sides to the table. (Just asking, but wasn’t that supposed to be the point of the Super Committee in the first place?) Expect to hear from the president the themes of “coming together” and the need for “compromise” on this issue on the campaign trail similar to the way he’s campaigned on his jobs plan. By the way, House Speaker Boehner defends his own role in the process, saying in an op-ed in USA Today that he “did everything possible” to support the committee.
*** Giving Thanks: For the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re taking a break from the morning version of First Read until Monday. But don’t fret, we’ll still have updates throughout the day as news warrants.
*** On the 2012 trail: The only action is with Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, who are both in New Hampshire.
*** Tuesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up (with guest host Luke Russert): Super Committee member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) on how we got here… MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on his new book “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero”… the latest on Egypt with NBC’s Richard Engel in Cairo… more 2012 news with the Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson, Roll Call/Rothenberg Report’s Nathan Gonzales and Republican strategist Phil Musser.
*** Tuesday’s “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on the Super Committee, Author Jeff Madrick on whether America Needs Wall Street, former Gov. Ed Rendell and Susan Del Percio on Gingrich’s rise in the polls.
*** Tuesday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: The Nation’s Katrina Vanden Heuvel, publisher Mort Zuckerman, Financial Times’ Gillian Tett; and MSNBC contributor Meghan McCain.
*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: Andrea Mitchell anchors from New York. Guests include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, MSNBC’S Rachel Maddow, NCAA President Mark Emmert (on the Penn State investigation), Newt Gingrich’s New Hampshire Director Andrew Hemingway, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, and NBC’s Engel.
Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 42 days
Countdown to New Hampshire primary: 49 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 60 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 70 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 74 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 105 days
Countdown to Election Day: 350 days
Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower
Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is now leading in a new USA Today-Gallup poll with 22 percent, which puts him ahead of Mitt Romney. Over the weekend, Gingrich had a few choice words for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. NBC's Brian Williams reports.
In a special Thanksgiving edition of PRESS Pass, White House assistant chef Sam Kass gave David an inside look at the first family's kitchen and talked about his special advisory role in the Obama administration. As the senior policy adviser for healthy food initiatives, Kass has been a high-profile advocate for Michelle Obama’s "Let's Move!" campaign and other children’s health programs. His goal while in the administration is to have a “transformative impact” on the health of the country, particularly children.
Kass spoke with David Gregory about how much the White House should be involved in child nutrition, saying that in schools, “it’s clear we have a responsibility to ensure that there are good standards that are based on science.” But he admitted to being bewildered on one government food policy: Congress’ decision that pizza can be called a vegetable.
"You're gonna have to ask [Congress] ... for the answer on that one," he said.
Kass, who prepares everything from state dinners to the Obama family’s private meals, revealed what excites him most as a chef and talked about the rewards of cooking healthy from the First Lady’s garden. David also got some insight into the first family’s kitchen, where, Kass says, vegetables are non-negotiable and the Obama children have to fend for themselves when it comes to snacks.
For the White House Thanksgiving, though, he says “we just try to have fun.”
Watch PRESS Pass above to hear more about cooking in the White House and the first lady’s food programs -- as well as Sam Kass’ Thanksgiving stuffing secret.
By NBC's Jamie Novogrod
NEW YORK -- In attacks that seemed at once personal and political, Michele Bachmann sized up President Obama’s character during a series of press conferences Monday, telling reporters that the president “never has wanted to take personal responsibility.”
The attacks occurred as the deadline loomed – and then passed – on negotiations inside the congressional supercommittee on cuts to the federal budget, a process on which Bachmann said Obama had been “AWOL.”
“Why did he leave the United States on a nine-day trip when the most important decision needed to be made?” Bachmann asked, referring to a tour of Asian countries that concluded in last week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which the U.S. hosted in Honolulu. President Obama returned to Washington on Sunday – one day before the supercommittee’s deadline.
“The president never has wanted to take personal responsibility,” Bachmann added. “He’s the president of the United States. He has to stop blaming everyone else. Especially when he’s been AWOL on the issue.”
Bachmann’s remarks reflect a sharp mood that seemed to affect people on both sides of the failed negotiations. In an address Monday evening, Obama cast blame on congressional Republicans for refusing to accept tax increases as part of a deficit package.
“There are still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to voices of reason and compromise coming from outside Washington,” Obama said.
Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, prides herself on being from “outside” Washington and other coastal cities. She was in New York Monday to mark the release of her memoir, “Core of Conviction,” embarking on appearances on NBC’s TODAY show, Glenn Beck’s television and radio programs, and NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
But one major appointment was unrelated to her book tour – a meeting with Donald Trump, her fourth to date.
Bachmann told reporters outside Trump’s offices in midtown Manhattan that she and Trump “had a marvelous time together,” adding that their conversation had focused on the threat to the American economy posed by an ascendant China.
It’s unclear whether conversation turned to a subject that Trump reportedly discussed with at least one other candidate – his skepticism about Obama’s birth certificate, which Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said came up during his own meeting with Trump.
Asked by NBC whether Obama’s birth certificate came up, Bachmann demurred.
“We talked primarily about the economy,” she said, adding, “and, we talked about the supercommittee.”
From The Associated Press:
WASHINGTON -- Don't look for the Pentagon to shut down one side of its famous five-sided building. Don't expect the Education Department to pull back its grants just yet.
With the collapse of the deficit-cutting supercommittee, Congress' emergency backup budget-cutting plan now is supposed to take over — automatic, across-the-board spending reductions of roughly $1 trillion from military as well as domestic government programs.
But the big federal deficit reductions that are to be triggered by Monday's supercommittee collapse wouldn't kick in until January 2013. And that allows plenty of time for lawmakers to try to rework the cuts or hope that a new post-election cast of characters — possibly a different president — will reverse them.
Congress' defense hawks led the charge Monday, arguing that the debt accord reached by President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans last summer already inflicted enough damage on the military budget. That agreement set in motion some $450 billion in cuts to future Pentagon accounts over the next decade.
The defense hawks were backed up in part by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who warned of a hollow force but implored Congress to produce a debt plan to avoid cuts "that will tear a seam in the nation's defense."
The supercommittee's failure to produce a deficit-cutting plan of at least $1.2 trillion after two months of work is supposed to activate the further, automatic cuts, half from domestic programs, half from defense. Combined with the current reductions, the Pentagon would be looking at nearly $1 trillion in cuts to projected spending over 10 years.
Obama declared he would veto any effort to undo the automatic cuts. But there are sure to be efforts in that direction.
"Our military has already contributed nearly half a trillion to deficit reduction. Those who have given us so much have nothing more to give," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., in promising to introduce legislation to prevent the cuts.
Sens. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the panel, said they would "pursue all options" to avoid deeper defense cuts.
The congressional rank and file may be determined to spare defense and undo the automatic cuts, but there's hardly unanimity. Deficit-cutting tea partyers within the GOP side with liberal Democrats in signaling they're ready to allow military reductions. In addition, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said they would abide by the consequences of the deficit-fighting law — and they control what legislation moves forward.
Freshman Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a tea party favorite, even questioned the legitimacy of the outcry over the military reductions, from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta contending the cuts would be devastating to McKeon's warning that they would "cripple our ability to properly train and equip our force, significantly degrading military readiness."
"I think we need to be honest about it," Paul said in an interview on CNN Sunday. "The interesting thing is there will be no cuts in military spending. This may surprise some people, but there will be no cuts in military spending because we're only cutting proposed increases. If we do nothing, military spending goes up 23 percent over 10 years. If we sequester the money, it will still go up 16 percent. So spending is still rising under any of these plans."
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the planned Pentagon budget for 2021 would be some $700 billion, an increase over the current level of about $520 billion. The cuts already in the works plus the automatic reductions would trim the projected amount by about $110 billion.
"It's not a decrease in the military budget. It's reducing the increase," said John Isaacs, executive director of Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
But McCain and Graham have been working on legislation that would undo the automatic defense reductions and instead impose a 5 percent across-the-board reduction in government spending combined with a 10 percent cut in pay for members of Congress.
The Senate resumes work next week on a massive defense bill, a possible candidate for any effort to rework or undo the cuts.
"It's a near certainty they will try to get out from under it," Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group advocating fiscal discipline, said of the automatic cuts. "It's equally certain they will damage their credibility if they do so."
The next year-plus plays out in a politically charged atmosphere, with Obama's Republican presidential rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Perry already criticizing the commander in chief for the proposed cuts in defense.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was imperative for Obama "to ensure that the defense cuts he insisted upon do not undermine national security" as Panetta has warned.
Congressional Republicans and Democrats must also decide in the coming weeks whether to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and leave in place a payroll tax cut enacted last year to prop up the economy.
One other costly question is whether to fix the Medicare payment formula to prevent a nearly 30 percent cut in reimbursements to doctors.
At the end of 2012, Congress must decide whether to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush. Democrats want to allow them to expire for wealthy Americans, Republicans want to extend them.
Under the automatic cuts, the Pentagon would face a 10 percent cut in its $550 billion budget in 2013. On the domestic side, education, agriculture and environmental programs would face cuts of around 8 percent.
The law exempts Social Security, Medicaid and many veterans' benefits and low-income programs. It also limits Medicare to a 2 percent reduction.
"It doesn't begin for 13 months," said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at the centrist-Democratic group Third Way. "Between now and then is an eternity for Congress."
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor and Alan Fram contributed to this report.
Now entering his sixth month as mayor of Chicago, the 52-year-old former White House chief of staff is attempting to rebuild the nation's third-largest city. Emanuel's hard-charging, in-your-face persona is still intact, but he shows a side of himself that has not been seen before. Rock Center's Harry Smith reports.
The bipartisan leadership of a special congressional deficit super committee has officially announced that the panel failed to reach an agreement. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell has more.
The Associated Press
Updated at 6:45 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON - Congress' supercommittee conceded ignominious defeat Monday in its quest to conquer a government debt that stands at a staggering $15 trillion, unable to overcome deep and enduring political divisions over taxes and spending.
Stock prices plummeted at home and across debt-scarred Europe as the panel ended its brief, secretive existence without an agreement. Republicans and Democrats alike pointed fingers of blame, maneuvering for political advantage in advance of 2012 elections less than a year away.
The impasse underscored grave doubts about Washington's political will to make tough decisions and left a cloud of uncertainty over the U.S. economy at the same time that Greece, Italy, Spain and other European countries are reeling from a spreading debt crisis and recession worries.
Lawmakers of both parties agreed action in Congress was still required, somehow, and soon.
"Despite our inability to bridge the committee's significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve," the panel's two co-chairs, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., said in a somber statement.
They added it was not possible to present "any bipartisan agreement" — omitting any reference to the goal of $1.2 trillion in cuts over a decade that had been viewed as a minimum for success.
President Barack Obama — criticized by Republicans for keeping the committee at arm's length — said refusal by the GOP to raise taxes on the wealthy was the main stumbling block to a deal. He pledged to veto any attempt by lawmakers to repeal a requirement for $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts that are to be triggered by the supercommittee's failure to reach a compromise, unless Congress approves an alternative approach.
Those cuts are designed to fall evenly on the military and domestic government programs beginning in 2013, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as well as lawmakers in both parties have warned the impact on the Pentagon could be devastating.
In reality, though, it is unclear if any of those reductions will ever take effect, since next year's presidential and congressional elections have the potential to alter the political landscape before then.
The brief written statement from Murray and Hensarling was immediately followed by a hail of recriminations.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Republicans had "never found the courage to ignore the tea party extremists" and "never came close to meeting us half way."
But Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who authored a GOP offer during the talks, said, "Unfortunately, our Democratic colleagues refused to agree to any meaningful deficit reduction without $1 trillion in job-crushing tax increases."
Said Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a GOP presidential hopeful, "It's amazing to what lengths he (Obama) will go to avoid making tough decisions."
It was unlikely the outcome would materially improve Congress' public standing — already well below 20-percent approval in numerous polls.
And the panel's failure left lawmakers confronting a large and controversial agenda for December, including Obama's call to extend an expiring payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. Democrats had wanted to add those items and more to any compromise, and lawmakers in both parties also face a struggle to stave off a threatened 27 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Based on accounts provided by officials familiar with the talks, it appeared that weeks of private negotiations did nothing to alter a fundamental divide between the two political parties. Before and during the talks, Democrats said they would agree to significant savings from benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security only if Republicans would agree to a hefty dose of higher taxes, including cancellation of Bush-era cuts at upper-income brackets. In contrast, The GOP side said spending, not revenue, was the cause of the government's chronic budget deficits, and insisted that the tax cuts approved in the previous decade all be made permanent.
The Democrats' "idea was this was the opportunity to raise taxes,'" said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate's second-ranking Republican and a member of the supercommittee. "It didn't matter what we proposed; the price of that was going to be $1.3 trillion in new taxes," he added in a CNBC interview, although Democrats made at least two offers that called for smaller amounts of additional tax revenue.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said on MSNBC, "I have demonstrations outside my office. I've had rallies. I've had unbelievable amount of pushback because we were ready and prepared to put on the table some of those so-called sacred cows." Republicans, he said, refused to consider cancellation of the tax cuts for the wealthy.
The talks also were hampered by internal divisions within both parties.
Republicans offered a plan crafted by Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania about two weeks ago that included an additional $250 billion in tax revenue through an overhaul of the tax code that included reducing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent. Some Republicans criticized it as a violation of the party's long-standing pledge not to raise taxes. Even some in the GOP leadership, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, declined to endorse it in public.
At the same time, Democrats ridiculed it as a tax cut for the rich in disguise — even privately criticizing Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., when he said it could signal a breakthrough — and it failed to generate any momentum toward compromise. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and others also accused Republicans of bowing to the wishes of Grover Norquist, an anti-tax activist whose organization has gathered signatures from GOP candidates on a petition pledging never to raise taxes.
And Democrats had problems of their own. An offer presented by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to cut about $3 trillion from future deficits failed to win the backing of two of the six committee members of his own party. Officials said they objected because it would have curtailed future cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, some liberals said in remarks on the Senate floor they opposed it and Republicans criticized them for intransigence.
Baucus jettisoned it from a subsequent offer that also slashed an earlier demand for tax revenues.
The panel's failure marked the end of an extraordinary yearlong effort by divided government to grapple with budget deficits that lawmakers of both parties and economists of all persuasions agreed were unsustainable.
Negotiations in the Capitol led by Vice President Joseph Biden were followed by an extraordinary round of White House talks in which Obama and House Speaker John Boehner sought a sweeping compromise to cut trillions from future deficits. They outlined a potential accord that would make far-reaching changes in Medicare and other programs, while generating up to $800 billion in higher revenue through an overhaul of the tax code. But in the end, they failed to agree.
By contrast, the supercommittee never came close, instead swapping increasingly small-bore offers that the other side swiftly rejected.
Within the past week, Democrats said they would accept a Republican framework for $400 billion in higher tax revenue and $800 billion or so in spending cuts, while rejecting numerous key proposals.
Late last week, Boehner floated an offer that included $543 billion in spending cuts, fees and other non-tax revenue, as well as $3 billion in tax revenue from closing a special tax break for corporate purchases of private jets. It also assumed $98 billion in reduced interest costs.
It was swiftly rejected.
On Tuesday, it was "You better believe it, Steny." On Wednesday, it was a not-so cordial invitation to debate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. On Friday, it was a stinging rebuke of Attorney General Eric Holder.
As Texas Gov. Rick Perry tries to get back what a sympathetic television host called his "political sea legs," he has spent the last week targeting Democratic officials much reviled by his conservative base.
The pot shots come after Perry's pitch early last week to create a "part time" Congress and slash lawmakers' pay. When the idea was met with ridicule by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Perry delighted in pointing out the Maryland lawmaker's long tenure in Congress.
His mid-week Twitter war with Pelosi culminated in a call for her to turn over her financial records to the Securities and Exchange Commission after the speaker was reported to be one of several lawmakers who benefited from well-timed stock trades. On Friday, before an audience of law enforcement agents, Perry all but called for Holder's ouster as a result of the controversial "Fast and Furious" operation.
Those attacks have come atop a drumbeat of Perry's critiques of the White House. The Texas governor has doubled down on his claim that President Obama labeled the American people "lazy" (Politifact Texas rated Perry's statement "mostly false.") He claimed on FOX this week that the president does not understand the nation's fiscal woes because he "grew up in a privileged way."
Each attack against his Democratic opponents represents a slab of red meat for his potential supporters, as Perry works to convince them to look past his debate missteps to view him as a contrast to the political "establishment." More subtle -- but more important to the survival of his campaign -- are the "establishment"-based digs at his Republican opponents he's laced in between.
"Unique to the Republican field, I have never been an establishment figure, have never served in Congress or part of an administration, and have never been a paid lobbyist," Perry said Tuesday, previewing a new ad his campaign unveiled on Saturday. "My career has been that of a Washington outsider."
The Associated Press
By Julie Pace
Heralding a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, President Barack Obama signed into law Monday legislation aimed at helping unemployed veterans find work while putting more cash in the hands of companies with government contracts.
The legislation, which creates tax breaks for companies that hire jobless veterans, marks the first proposal from Obama's $447 billion jobs bill to be signed into law. The rest of the package of new taxes and spending has largely failed to garner support from Republican lawmakers.
"Because Democrats and Republicans came together, I'm proud to sign those proposals into law," Obama said during a signing ceremony Monday.
Looming over the brief moment of unity, however, was the apparent failure of lawmakers from both parties to agree on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts ahead of a Wednesday deadline by a special committee. While Obama didn't directly address the looming deadline, he said the American people deserve bold, bipartisan action.
"My message to every member of Congress is keep going. Keep working. Keep finding more ways to put bipartisanship aside and put more Americans back to work," he said.
The veterans' legislation had overwhelming support from both parties, with the House passing the measure 422-0 and the Senate approving it 95-0. In addition to the tax breaks for businesses, it also beefs up job-training and counseling programs for unemployed veterans.
The legislation also repeals a 2006 law that would have required the federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of their payments to contractors. That statute, which doesn't take effect until 2013, was supposed to pressure contractors to pay their taxes in full, but lawmakers now say the law would deny cash to companies that need it to hire more workers.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said passage of the bill showed that it is possible for both parties to reach a consensus.
"By focusing on areas of agreement — rather than partisan stimulus bills — we can pass legislation to help foster job growth. Neither of these measures alone is going to solve the jobs crisis, but they'll provide relief to job creators and help American veterans," McConnell said.
McConnell praised Obama for inviting Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts to attend the ceremony. It was Brown who had introduced the 3 percent withholding bill.
The tax credits for hiring veterans will cost the government an estimated $95 million — a tiny fraction of Obama's overall jobs plan. The credits would be as much as $9,600 for companies hiring disabled vets who have looked for work for more than half a year. The size of the credit would be based on the worker's salary and how long the worker was unemployed.
The programs would be financed mostly by extending a fee the Veterans Affairs Department charges to back mortgages.
Erasing the withholding requirement for contractors would reduce federal revenues by an estimated $11.2 billion over the coming decade. It would be paid for by making it harder for some elderly people to qualify for Medicaid by changing the formula used to determine their eligibility.
Many economists have said annulling the withholding law would have a minimal impact on hiring.
The Associated Press
By Alan Fram
Failure by Congress' debt-cutting supercommittee to recommend $1.2 trillion in savings by Wednesday is supposed to automatically trigger spending cuts in the same amount to accomplish that job.
But the same legislators who concocted that budgetary booby trap just four months ago could end up spending the 2012 election year and beyond battling over defusing it.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., say they are writing legislation to prevent what they say would be devastating cuts to the military. House Republicans are exploring a similar move. Democrats maintain they won't let domestic programs be the sole source of savings.
In the face of those efforts, President Barack Obama has told the debt panel's co-chairmen that he "will not accept any measure that attempts to turn off the automatic cut trigger," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last week. The leaders of both parties in the House and Senate have expressed similar sentiments — seemingly making any attempt to restore the money futile.
"Yes, I would feel bound by it," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said recently of the automatic cuts. "It was part of the agreement."
But that doesn't mean rank-and-file lawmakers won't try to block the cuts, or that viewpoints might not change if the right deal is offered — especially in the hothouse atmosphere of next year's presidential and congressional campaign or its aftermath.
With nearly $500 billion in defense spending and an equal amount of domestic dollars at stake, plenty of lawmakers are ready to try blocking all or parts of those automatic cuts, if only to win favor from backers of programs whose funds are on the chopping block.
"I have no doubt that there will be efforts to turn it off," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "Never underestimate the willingness of politicians to try to avoid making some of the hard choices."
It's unclear how successful such an effort would be. Not only would an Obama veto be tough to overcome, but pressure from the financial markets on politicians to rein in the government's huge budget shortfalls could keep lawmakers from easing the automatic reductions.
The automatic cuts, enacted in this summer's debt-limit deal between Obama and congressional Republicans, were designed to be so distasteful that they would add pressure on the supercommittee to craft a compromise.
"I would have hoped it would have been a deterrent to those who have taken an oath to Grover Norquist that defense of our country" is less important than tax cuts, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday, in a dig at Republicans who signed a pledge from the conservative activist to not raise taxes.
But with prospects dimming for a bipartisan accord by the supercommittee on a deficit-reduction package by this week's deadline, it appears increasingly likely that members of Congress will have to live with the automatic cuts — or "sequestration" — that they built into the law. Little progress was made over the weekend as Democrats and Republicans traded barbs over which party was responsible for gridlock on the 12-member supercommittee.
And while lawmakers of all stripes agree that automatic, across-the-board cuts are no way to run the federal government, the threat hasn't outweighed the differences between the six Democrats and six Republicans on the deficit panel. Democrats are demanding significant tax increases in exchange for savings from expensive benefit programs, while Republicans are refusing to accept such revenue boosts.
The debt-limit agreement requires automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion if the supercommittee produces nothing or if Congress fails to approve a package of that size by Christmas.
If the debt panel produces less than $1.2 trillion in savings, automatic cuts are activated to make up the difference. So $800 billion in savings from the supercommittee would trigger $400 billion in automatic cuts.
By law, 18 percent of the automatic savings are assumed to come from interest costs the government would save from reducing the debt. If the supercommittee fails completely, out of the $1.2 trillion in automatic savings, $216 billion would be assumed interest savings.
That would leave $984 billion in automatic spending cuts. They are supposed to start in 2013 and be spread evenly over the next nine years, divided equally between defense and domestic programs. That works out to around $55 billion annually each from defense and domestic programs.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that for the Pentagon, that would mean a 10 percent cut in its $550 billion budget in 2013 — a huge hit.
"Unless we act today, the dismantling of the greatest armed forces in history could begin tomorrow," Rep. Howard P. McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote supercommittee leaders on Friday in a letter warning them of the consequences of the automatic defense reductions.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he wants to stick with the automatic cuts but would like to reshape them so they rely less heavily on defense.
Several lawmakers talked of the possibility of easing the impact of the automatic cuts on defense in interviews on Sunday news programs.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, co-chairman of the supercommittee, said he hopes the current projected split of half defense, half domestic, for the automatic spending cuts will be changed in the event no deal emerges from his panel.
"But I am committed to insuring that the American people get that deficit reduction that they were promised," he said on Fox News Sunday. "But under the law, Congress will have 13 months to do that I n a smarter, more prudent fashion."
"Maybe sequestration is our only way we will get any kind of cuts," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" he believes the Pentagon cuts would be devastating. "But we do have the opportunity, even if the committee fails, to work around the sequester so that we still have $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years, but it's not done in the very Draconian way that Secretary Panetta is referring to."
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said, "If they're going to try to protect defense, there'll be pushback."
On the domestic side, the law exempts Social Security, Medicaid and many veterans' benefits and low-income programs. It also limits Medicare to a 2 percent reduction.
Still, that leaves education, agriculture and the environment programs exposed to cuts of around 8 percent in 2013, CBO says. For many Democrats, those are cuts worth fighting against, especially if Republicans try protecting defense programs.
The temptation to block the automatic cuts could grow even larger right after the 2012 elections, depending on the results.
The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush are scheduled to expire in January 2013. Extending them is a top GOP priority, while Democrats want to let them expire for the highest-earning Americans.
If either party wins White House and congressional control, its members could be ready to reshape both the automatic spending cuts and the tax cuts to their liking.
NASHUA, N.H. -- Newt Gingrich declared that the congressional "Super Committee's collapse" would be "good for America."
"I think it's going to fail,” Gingrich said at a campaign stop at Rivier College. “And I think it should fail, because it's exactly wrong.”
Today is considered the final day for Democrats and Republicans to agree on a plan that would need pass before Thanksgiving in order to avoid automatic spending cuts to Defense and social programs.
"It's not that Washington is inherently gridlocked,” the former Speaker contended. “It is that the current players are behaving in the current way are inherently gridlocked. It's partially president's fault, partially Congress's fault, but it's a mess.”
He added, "They were trying to break out of the mess by being, in my judgment, even dumber -- that is creating a committee of 12 picked by the political leadership to magically get in a room to come up something that 535 couldn't solve. It's profoundly the wrong direction.... It's a major reason I am running for president.”
As for what he would propose if he were in office, Gingrich was unclear. He said he encourages every subcommittee to revisit their budgets and cut spending, and he does not support repealing the Bush tax cuts.
"I'm in favor of not raising any taxes on an economy that has 9% unemployment," he said. "The reason is simple -- we know how to create jobs."
Gingrich, whose campaign team quit on him months ago and was low on resources, has ridden his debate performances -- and benefited from the stumbles of rivals -- to higher poll numbers both nationally and in New Hampshire. Today, he attempted to distinguish himself from the rest of the GOP field and make a general-election argument focused on those debate performances.
"If you stop and ask yourself, 'It's October of 2012, we get to the debates -- who do you want to have debate Obama to draw clarity between the various lies he will be telling and the truth?'” Gingrich said. “And I think most people end up thinking I'm a better debater than my friends are.”
Gingrich also slammed Obama on spending and leadership, calling his administration "a 16-year-old with the first credit-card kind of problem."
On immigration, Gingrich quipped, "FedEx and UPS track 24 million packages…. They allow you to track them at no extra cost. The federal government cannot currently find a million people," he said to laughter. "FedEx and UPS can track packages while they're moving; the federal government can't find people when they're sitting still! My policy is send everybody a package."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., joins Morning Joe to discuss the debt super committee and their seeming inability to reach a deal, and why he believes the president should step forward on the deficit talks.
Worst. Congress. Ever?... The Super Committee’s failure is the latest evidence to back up that assertion… The blame game begins over the Super Committee… Then again, gridlock could end up succeeding to produce as much as $6 trillion in deficit reduction… Gingrich and Romney lead the pack in new USA Today/Gallup poll… Crying it out in Iowa… Is Romney playing to win in Iowa?... And Perry targets a different Democrat a day.
*** Worst. Congress. Ever? Last summer, during the height of the debt-ceiling debate, congressional scholar Norm Ornstein wrote an article dubbing this Congress the “Worst. Congress. Ever.” And there’s now even more evidence to back up that assertion. According to Gallup, just 13% approve of Congress’ job (and that percentage is lower in other polls). As far as productivity goes, congressional lobbyist Billy Moore tells First Read that this Congress has enacted just 55 public laws so far this year (and 34 of them merely extended existing laws), compared with the average over the last 20 years of 148 public laws for a first full session. Moreover, back in the spring, Congress almost allowed the federal government to shut down. In the summer, Standard & Poor's cited Congress' brinksmanship over the debt ceiling as its rationale for downgrading U.S. debt. And now, unless a miracle occurs, it appears that the so-called Super Committee won't be able to reach an agreement to strike a deal over how to cut $1.2 trillion or more in spending.
As the self-imposed deadline looms for Congress' debt-cutting "super committee" to recommend more than $1 trillion in budget savings, Congressional leaders conceded that talks were near failure. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.
*** The blame game: Of course, everyone is trying to blame the other side for the Super Committee’s expected failure. Republicans -- as well as GOP presidential contenders like Mitt Romney -- are blaming President Obama for not doing more (even though House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP walked away from the president’s grand-bargain offer last summer). Democrats are blaming Republicans for not making a serious effort to place higher taxes and more tax revenue on the table. And Republicans are blaming Democrats for not making a serious effort to reform entitlement spending. But the institution of Congress needs to take a deep look into the mirror. Because of how it works -- legislation has to pass both chambers to get to the president's desk, and 60 votes are now needed to get almost anything through the Senate -- both sides have to come together to get anything done. And right now, that's not happening. Make no mistake: This likely will hurt ALL incumbents; Congress' job rating will get lower (who knew that was possible?); and will make running against Washington all the more appealing.
*** Then again, gridlock could end up succeeding: But while Congress is unable to put politics aside to strike a grand bargain -- or any bargain -- here, there is still some significant deficit reduction going on. The Super Committee’s inability to reach a deal triggers $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years in military and civilian spending. That’s on top of the nearly $1 trillion Congress cut to raise the debt ceiling in the summer. And consider this: If Congress and Obama let the Bush tax cuts expire -- all of them -- that would produce another $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. So if Congress ends up doing NOTHING, you could see $6 trillion in deficit reduction. That said, efforts are already underway to restore military spending cuts, as well as those Bush tax cuts.
*** Gingrich and Romney leading the pack: Turning to the Republican presidential race, a new USA Today/Gallup poll has Newt Gingrich and Romney in the lead, with Gingrich at 22% among registered GOP voters and Romney at 21%. Herman Cain has dropped to third at 16%, and he’s followed by Ron Paul at 9% and Rick Perry at 8%.
*** Crying it out in Iowa: Over the weekend, six of the GOP presidential candidates (Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, and Santorum) spoke at a forum sponsored by the Family Leader, and things got a bit emotional. Per a dispatch by NBC’s Carrie Dann, Alex Moe, Andrew Rafferty, and Jamie Novogrod, “Gingrich disclosed a time in the 1990s when he felt that he was ‘failing personally,’ even turning to the Alcoholics Anonymous handbook because he felt ‘truly hollow.’” Gingrich also admitted that his two divorces caused “a great deal of pain,” which he said he deeply regretted. Meanwhile, Cain “choked up when talking about his wife, Gloria, and the struggle he faced with cancer.” And he later “struggled past tears in describing one consequence of his business success. ‘I didn't believe that I was home enough when my kids were growing up,’ he said.” And another candidate who shed tears was Santorum, who discussed his daughter’s struggles for her life. “‘I had seen her as less of a person because of her disability.’”
*** Is Romney playing to win Iowa? One of the Republicans who didn’t attend Saturday’s forum -- Romney -- appears more and more likely to make a play for Iowa. As NBC’s Alex Moe and Garrett Haake reported over the weekend, Romney’s campaign opened an official headquarters in the Hawkeye State. “We’ve got a lot of volunteers and more activity as the caucuses approach and we thought it was time to get a little more space," David Kochel, Romney's top adviser in Iowa, told NBC. "We opened the office several days ago. We don’t plan any grand opening events there.” The New York Times later added that Romney “is now playing to win the Iowa caucuses. Television commercials are on the way, volunteers are arriving and a stealth operation is ready to burst into view in the weeks leading up to the caucuses, the first Republican nominating contest, on Jan. 3.” Romney travels to the Hawkeye State on Wednesday.
*** Perry targets a different Democrat a day: NBC’s Carrie Dann points out that Perry spent the past week criticizing Democrats and Democratic officials. On Tuesday, he took aim at House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. On Wednesday, it was a not-so cordial invitation to debate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. On Friday, it was a stinging rebuke of Attorney General Eric Holder. And in between, he was attacking President Obama. Who’s next? Anyone want to bet it’s Energy Secretary Chu?
*** On the 2012 trail: It’s a busy day in New Hampshire, with Romney, Gingrich, Paul and Huntsman all campaigning there… Huntsman also delivers a speech in DC on the Super Committee’s failure… Santorum stumps in Iowa… And Bachmann meets with Donald Trump in New York City, and she tapes an interview with Jimmy Fallon.
*** Monday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up (with guest host Luke Russert): House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on the super committee’s finger-pointing and what no deal means with NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and Jim Miklaszewski… The latest on Egypt with NBC’s Richard Engel and the accused New York City terror plotter with WNBC’s Jonathan Dienst… And more 2012 news with the Washington Post’s Dan Balz, USA Today’s Susan Page and the Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page.
*** Monday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: MSNBC’s Richard Lui interviews the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein and Dana Milbank, the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs, and Dem Rep. Karen Bass.
*** Monday’s “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts interviews David Goodfriend & Robert Traynham (on Newt’s rise) and CNBC’s Shartia Brantley (on the black 1%).
*** Monday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: MSNBC’s Alex Wagner’s panel includes former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, Meghan McCain, Melissa Harris-Perry, and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.
*** Monday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell (from New York) interviews Super Committee member John Kerry, Sen. Jim Webb, Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum, Roll Call’s Christina Bellantoni, the Financial Times’ Gillian Tett, Stu Rothenberg, and NBC’s Richard Engel.
*** Monday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews The Hill’s AB Stoddard and The Nation’s Ari Melber, as well as Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 43 days
Countdown to New Hampshire primary: 50 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 61 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 71 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 75 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 106 days
Countdown to Election Day: 351 days
Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower
By ERIC LIPTON
WASHINGTON — With the hours ticking away toward a self-imposed deadline, Congressional leaders conceded Sunday that talks on a sweeping deficit agreement were near failure and braced for recriminations over their inability to reach a deal.
The stalemate was the latest sign of partisan deadlock in Washington, which members of both parties do not expect to lift until the 2012 election has clarified which party has the upper hand.
Barring an unexpected turnaround before Monday’s deadline, the failure of the special Congressional deficit committee will be the third high-profile effort to fall short of a deal in the last 12 months, including a bipartisan deficit commission and talks last summer between President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner.
Read the full story here:
NYT: Lawmakers trade blame as deficit talks crumble
I spoke with two members of the deficit committee this morning- Senators Kyl and Kerry - and both offered conflicting views about the state of the "supercommittee" negotiations. Both sides seem to be butting heads on the issue of taxes.
Senator Kerry told me the whole debate comes down on this issue. He said there could be a deal "in the next two hours," but the, "most significant block to our doing something right now, tomorrow, is [Republicans'] insistence, insistence, insistence on the Grover Norquist pledge and extending the Bush tax cuts."
Senator Kyl made his case: "When our Democratic friends made it very clear that they weren't going to do anything without raising taxes, we then turned to: What is the best way to derive revenues? Is it to allow the current code to expire and have the biggest tax [increase] in the history of our country? No."
Plus, we discussed 2012 politics. Though Senator Kerry said he hasn't been paying much attention to the race, in light of his work on the super committee, he still found time to attack Former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA).
"There are few people I've met in public life who have changed on as many issues as he has," Senator Kerry said. "Every major touchstone of American politics, from abortion, to guns, to war, to God, to gays, you name it."
We also discussed the brand new poll that shows Newt Gingrich ahead of Mitt Romney as the front runner in the GOP race. The question is, how long will he remain at the top? Republican strategist Mike Murphy thinks both the Romney and Obama campaigns like the idea of facing Newt Gingrich head-to-head, however, Murphy maintained he'd be surprised should Gingrich turn out to be the nominee.
You can watch our entire roundtable on our website to hear the discussion on Herman Cain's latest foreign policy flub on Libya as well as the strategy for Rick Perry to win back support in Iowa.
Here's what Reuters wrote about the news made this morning on Meet The Press.
We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet The Press.
By Jeff Mason
Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has roared into the lead of the Republican nominating race, brushing off concerns about his work for a troubled housing company, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.
Twenty-four percent of registered Republican voters would support the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives if the contest were held now, an increase of 8 percentage points from roughly a week ago, according to the poll, which was conducted on Nov. 18-19.
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has stayed near the top of most polls, garnered support from 22 percent of Republicans, slumping 6 percentage points from the last survey conducted on Nov. 10-11 and ending up essentially tied with Gingrich.
Despite allegations of questionable business ties, Gingrich is the latest favorite of conservative Republicans eager for an alternative to Romney, whom they see as too moderate.
Support for Herman Cain, a previous frontrunner, is crumbling after sexual harassment allegations. The former pizza executive dropped 8 percentage points in the poll from last week and fell back into third place. Support for him has halved since late October.
In a sign of further relief for Gingrich, 46 percent of Republicans said the revelations that he had received up to $1.8 million in consulting fees from mortgage giant Freddie Mac had no impact on their view of the candidate.
Thirty-one percent said the issue left them with a less favorable opinion of Gingrich, who has criticized Freddie Mac sharply in the past.
"We have absolutely seen Gingrich surge," said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark, noting that the former House leader from the 1990s was a more established political figure than some of his Republican counterparts who have slipped in the polls.
"Because he is established, this makes him much more well protected" from damage resulting from the Freddie connection, she said.
A Fox News poll released on Wednesday also showed Gingrich ahead. That survey, however, was conducted before the Freddie Mac connection and other news stories about his business ties had fully played out.
Support for Cain and Texas Governor Rick Perry fell in the Reuters/Ipsos poll. Cain came in with 12 percent support and Perry, who has performed poorly in a series of televised debates, was in fourth place with 10 percent.
Although Romney lost sizable support since last week's poll, 42 percent of Republicans still believe he will eventually win the nomination and go on to face President Barack Obama in next year's election, compared to 19 percent who think Gingrich will prevail in the Republican race.
Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University history professor who follows politics, said Gingrich's high ratings were likely to drop.
"Gingrich comes to this chaotic campaign with tons of baggage. In this media environment it is likely that his numbers will fall soon," Zelizer said.
"Romney has played it well, slow and steady. He is a known commodity and thus far none of his issues and background has caused a huge drop."
Gingrich and Romney were basically tied among second-choice candidates. Asked who they would vote for if their first choice candidate dropped out, 19 percent of Republicans chose Gingrich compared to 18 percent who went with Romney.
Gingrich, whose campaign was nearly written off earlier this year after a defection of staff, has expressed surprise at his quick ascent.
He denies having lobbied for Freddie Mac. Thirty-seven percent of Americans believe he did lobby on behalf of the mortgage giant, while 20 percent believe he did not, the poll showed.
The poll also asked respondents to ascribe attributes to the leading candidates. Thirty-three percent of Republicans viewed Romney and Gingrich as honest and 18 percent described them both as hypocritical. Fifty-five percent said Gingrich was smart; 54 percent said the same of Romney.
The online survey of 1,432 Americans aged 18 and over included 423 Republican registered voters. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls but the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 5.3 percent.
By Andrew Taylor
The Associated Press
Updated at 2 p.m. ET
On the brink of failure, members of a special deficit-cutting committee blamed each other Sunday for the intransigence that has gridlocked the panel in its quest to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the coming decade.
"If you look at the Democrats' position it was 'We have to raise taxes. We have to pass this jobs bill, which is another almost half-trillion dollars. And we're not excited about entitlement reform,' " Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona said in a combative interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Fanning out to the sets of the Sunday morning talk shows, Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for a deepening impasse that has all but doomed chances for an accord. In a series of interviews, not a single panelist seemed optimistic about any last-minute breakthrough. Under the committee's rules, any plan would have to be unveiled Monday.
Democrats said that Republicans on the supercommittee were simply unwilling to move on tax increases that Democrats insist should be part of any package that emerges from the negotiations. And Republicans said Democrats' demands on taxes were too great, even in response to a scaled-back GOP offer made late last week.
"There is one sticking divide. And that's the issue of what I call shared sacrifice," said panel co-chair Sen. Patty Murray. "The wealthiest Americans who earn over a million a year have to share too. And that line in the sand, we haven't seen Republicans willing to cross yet," the Washington Democrat said on CNN's "State of the Union."
On Saturday, Republicans floated an offer smaller than a $644 billion GOP plan leaked to the media late last week, said a lawmaker directly familiar with the panel's work. It too was rejected. The lawmaker required anonymity because of the secrecy of the talks.
It looks like the lawmakers charged with cutting the federal budget deficit as part of a congressional "supercommittee" are ready to throw in the towel. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.
The Republican co-chair of Congress' debt supercommittee offered a glum assessment of prospects for an agreement.
Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling said "nobody wants to give up," but he also told "Fox News Sunday" that "the reality is to some extent starting to overtake hope." He said the panel's deadlock "was a failure in not seizing an opportunity."
The committee faces a Wednesday deadline. But members would have to agree on the outlines of a package by Monday to allow time for drafting and assessing by the Congressional Budget Office.
Panel members say they will be available for further talks Sunday in hopes of a final breakthrough and some last-minute offers on smaller deficit-cutting packages were possible. Also on the agenda is stage managing the group's disbandment.
Republicans are demanding changes in so-called entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid while Democrats are insisting on tax increases on the wealthy.
Over the past couple of weeks, the two sides have made a variety of offers and counter-offers, starting with a more than $3 trillion plan from Democrats that would have increased tax revenues by $1.3 trillion in exchange for further cuts in agency budgets, a change in the measure used to calculate cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries, and curbs on the growth of Medicare and Medicaid.
Republicans countered with a $1.5 trillion plan that included a potential breakthrough — $250 billion in higher taxes gleaned as Congress passes a future tax reform measure. The plan was trashed by Democrats, however, who said it would have lowered tax rates for the wealthy too far while eliminating tax breaks that chiefly benefit the middle class.
Most recently, Republicans forwarded a smaller, face-saving $644 billion offer comprised of $543 billion in spending cuts, fees and other non-tax revenue, as well as $3 billion in revenue from closing a special tax break for corporate purchases of private jets. It also assumed $98 billion in reduced interest costs.
On Saturday, Republicans floated an even smaller, unspecified offer, said a lawmaker directly familiar with the panel's work. It too was rejected. The lawmaker required anonymity because of the secrecy of the talks.
Officials familiar with the offer said it would save the government $121 billion by requiring federal civilian workers to contribute more to their pension plans, shave $23 billion from farm and nutrition programs and generate $15 billion from new auctions of broadcast spectrum to wireless companies.
Democrats said the plan was unbalanced because it included barely any tax revenue.
"Our Democratic friends are unable to cut even a dollar in spending without saying it has to be accompanied by tax increases," Kyl said.
"We are unaware of any Democrat offer that didn't include at least $1 trillion tax increase on the American economy," Hensarling said.
Failure to reach agreement would trigger automatic across-the-board spending cuts to a wide variety of domestic programs and the Pentagon budget, starting in January of 2013. But both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and many lawmakers say this automatic sequester would impose devastating cuts at the Pentagon.
"I hope it will be changed," Hensarling said. "Panetta said that cuts of that magnitude would hollow out our national defense."
Supercommittee member Sen. John Kerry says that the Democratic members of the deficit-cutting committee have "put every single sacred cow on the table."
Supercommittee member, Republican Whip Sen. Jon Kyl, said that there's a way to avoid "draconian" cuts "if there's good will on both sides" of the aisle.
From NBC’s Alex Moe & Andrew Rafferty
ALTOONA, Iowa – After an emotional roundtable discussion, six Republican presidential candidates put on their party hats and headed to Adventureland to kiss the ring of the don of Iowa politics.
Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad takes part in the Health and Human Services Committee meeting at the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Gov. Terry Brandstad celebrated his 65th birthday tonight, and five candidates – Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul – stopped by to celebrate and address the nearly 300-person crowd.
Newt Gingrich was the only candidate to attend the Family Leader Thanksgiving Forum but not speak at the birthday party.
The former House speaker did show up late, however, and apologized to the governor for his tardiness, explaining he needed to fulfill an obligation he made with Fox News.
Perry, the Texas governor, was first to take the stage at Adventureland Palace Theater just outside Des Moines.
With his wife, Anita Perry, by his side, he joked, "We just got through with a little debate downtown and she asked me -- she said, ‘Where do you want to go,’ and I said, ‘Let's go to Adventureland.’”
Cupcakes bearing the Iowa governor’s likeness – with a special emphasis on his signature mustache -- were served up as dessert.
Bachmann, the Republican Minnesota represtnative, said, "I bought my own mustache and so because there's cameras here, I won't put it on. But just to let you know, I'm for you Terry Branstad, happy birthday!"
The candidates weaved between doling out Brandstad birthday wishes and giving abridged versions of their stump speeches in front of a crowd filled with many likely caucus voters.
Embed Alex Moe recaps two big GOP events in the Hawkeye State Saturday night: a Thanksgiving Forum and the Governor's birthday party both attended by 6 presidential candidates.
The two noticeable candidate absences tonight were Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. Speaking to reporters, Brandstad made it clear he did not approve of Romney missing out on his party.
“I think they made a mistake by not being here,” said Brandstad of Romney’s absence. “I hope they'll spend a lot more time between now and January 3rd here is Iowa.” (Romney plans to be there Wednesday.)
Still, the night was not all politics and at times resembled a roast of the longest serving governor in Iowa history.
"I was a little surprised,” Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, joked, “last I heard he was 39 and now all of a sudden he is 65. How did that work out?”
By NBC's Jo Ling Kent and Garrett Haake
Peterborough, NH -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, will endorse Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney Sunday at a rally in Nashua, the campaign told NBC News on Saturday evening. Her endorsement is the first by the three Republicans in New Hampshire's four-person Congressional delegation.
Alex Wong/Getty Images file
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, will endorse Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former governor of neighboring Massachusetts.
This is an important endorsement for Romney, who has also been formally backed by John Sununu, former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff, and former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH.
Ayotte, 43, is considered a well-respected rising star in the Republican party. She won a closely fought GOP primary for the senate seat in 2010. Earlier, she was reappointed New Hampshire attorney general by Democratic Gov. John Lynch after first being appointed by Republican Gov. Craig Benson.
Ayotte is the sixth sitting senator to announce support for Romney, and the second to do so just this week.
In an email to supporters, Ayotte said she is endorsing Romney as a candidate "who can win." She cited his electability and private sector experience, calling Romney the "strongest candidate to face President Obama."
Ayotte also committed to joining Romney on the trail in the first-in-the-nation primary state, similar to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's promise to Romney.
"I will be working as hard as I can to help him secure the Republican nomination," Ayotte told voters late Saturday evening.