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First Thoughts: A 'West Wing' moment?

Did the White House get its “West Wing” moment from yesterday’s presser?... Liberal House Dems still in revolt over the tax-cut compromise… But will they end up accepting the deal?... Polling the tax deal… White House has been working primarily with McConnell, with McConnell then working Boehner… Is there still enough time to get START done?... To DREAM, the impossible DREAM [Act]… And Emmer expected to concede in Minnesota.


*** A “West Wing” moment? Did the White House get its -- take your pop culture pick -- Sorkin-like “West Wing” moment/“Sister Souljah” moment/”Dave” moment from President Obama’s news conference yesterday? “This notion that somehow we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care,” Obama said regarding complaints over the tax-cut compromise he cut with Republicans. “This is the public-option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans... But because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.” He continued, “Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people.”

*** Liberal revolt: Of course, some House Dems viewed the compromise -- as well as yesterday’s presser -- as Obama throwing them under the bus. "The last person that said we didn't matter was Newt Gingrich,” one rank-and-file House Dem told NBC’s Luke Russert after Obama’s press conference yesterday. “I don't like seeing that message from my president." Per NBC's Shawna Thomas, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) said, "We expressed very serious concerns, very serious" at last night's House Dem caucus meeting. Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT): "Where we are today ... is just not acceptable to people." And Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who represented House Dems in the bipartisan tax negotiations, added: "I have very serious reservations about this package primarily because of the [estate-tax] provision." What should make congressional Democrats truly nervous is that maybe the president doesn't hold them in high regard, and there's an argument to be made that he NEVER has. He holds their ideology and their beliefs in high regard, but NOT their tactics. The disdain for the Washington way of doing business came through big time yesterday.

*** Denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance: This anger from liberal House Democrats is more than understandable. Over the past two years, they’ve had to accept the Senate watering down legislation (stimulus, health care). What’s more, they lost 63 seats in last month’s elections -- the most by one party since the 1940s -- which will relegate them to minority status come January. So in the stages of grief, we’ve seen House Dems experience denial (keeping Pelosi as their leader), anger (see above), and bargaining (hoping for a better deal). And at some point, we’ll see acceptance. The reason: With the tax cuts set to expire at the end of the month, and with Republicans set to take over the House, the deal in front of Democrats is likely the best one they’ll get. And that will probably be the message that Vice President Biden will try to get across when he speaks to the House Dem caucus today.

*** Mixed polling results: Per a Gallup poll, conducted Dec. 3-6, 66% support extending the Bush tax cuts for all income levels for two years, and another 66% support extending unemployment benefits. But a Bloomberg poll has different results: "The survey, conducted before, during and after the tax negotiations, shows that only a third support keeping the lower rates for the highest earners, and less than half of those respondents say the breaks for the wealthy should last for a shorter period than cuts for the middle class. Overall, two- thirds of those polled favor a permanent extension of the lower rates for the middle class. More than a fourth say all the tax cuts should be allowed to expire Dec. 31, as scheduled."

*** Breaking the ice: The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein makes an interesting point today: After the White House and Republicans -- for the first time -- compromised where both sides had to give up something, the next time might be easier. “Now that the ice has been broken,” he writes, “maybe the next one will come a little easier.” Speaking of the White House-GOP negotiations, we can report that the White House has been dealing mainly with GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell (who has guaranteed at least half of his caucus to vote on the tax deal), and then McConnell is dealing with incoming Speaker John Boehner (who has yet to guarantee any votes from his caucus).

*** The clock is ticking: By the way, this tax-cut deal was announced on Monday. It’s now Wednesday. And -- at the earliest -- Congress won’t begin to work on the deal until tomorrow. What has this done to New START, plus other agenda items (like repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”)? The Senate probably can ratify the treaty in a week. But what about less than a week? Congress is supposed to adjourn after next week (though it could keep its doors open up until Christmas).

*** To DREAM the impossible DREAM [Act]: Speaking of other agenda items, Congress today is expected to take up the DREAM Act, which would provide a citizenship pathway for illegal immigrants who attend college or who serve in the U.S. military. “Votes on the measure were expected in the Senate and the House on Wednesday, Congressional leaders said,” the New York Times notes. “It stands a slim chance of passage in the House, where Democrats are in the final days of their majority. In the Senate, although its champion is the Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, the bill appears unlikely to succeed.”

*** Emmer is expected to concede: Well, it appears the Minnesota gubernatorial recount won’t last as long as the Franken-Coleman one did. The Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Republican Tom Emmer is expected to concede the Minnesota governor's race to DFLer Mark Dayton Wednesday, a GOP source with knowledge of Emmer's plans said late Tuesday. Emmer's campaign issued a news release early Wednesday saying the candidate would make a "major announcement" about the recount at a 10:30 a.m. event at his Delano home. The planned concession clears the way for Dayton, a former U.S. senator, to become the first Democratic governor in Minnesota in two decades." Dayton has enjoyed a nearly 9,000-vote lead over Emmer, a difficult margin for Emmer to close.

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