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First Thoughts: Far apart

Per the Sunday-show rhetoric, both sides remain far apart in budget negotiations… But remember: The real negotiations haven’t even started yet… Democrats and Republicans now find themselves in completely opposite places from 2011… Pelosi threatens to introduce already passed Senate-bill that extends Bush tax cuts for only household income below $250,000… Obama holds bilateral with Bulgaria PM at 2:55 pm ET… Wasserman Schultz to remain DNC chair… Checking in on Mitt Romney… And the latest VA GOV developments.

As the White House and Republican leaders enter the final months of negotiations over the fiscal cliff, both sides remain very far apart. The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd reports.

*** Far apart: Less than a month before the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire and significant spending reductions are supposed to go into effect, the Obama White House and congressional Republicans remain far apart in their negotiations. “We're nowhere, period. We're nowhere,” House Speaker John Boehner said on FOX yesterday. He also blasted the budget offer that the White House gave to Republicans on Thursday, which included $1.6 trillion in increased taxes and revenues, $400 to $600 billion in spending cuts, and the essential end of Congress’ control over the debt limit. “I was flabbergasted… I've just never seen anything like it. You know, we've got seven weeks between Election Day and the end of the year. And three of those weeks have been wasted with this nonsense.”

Larry Downing / Reuters

President Barack Obama hosts a bipartisan meeting with Congressional leaders in the Roosevelt Room of White House to discuss the economy, in this file photo from Nov. 16, 2012.

*** Boehner vs. Geithner on the Sunday shows: Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was adamant that the Bush tax cuts for income above $250,000 would have to expire. “The only thing standing in the way of [a deal] would be a refusal by Republicans to accept that rates have to go up on the wealthiest Americans,” he said on “Meet the Press.” And he added that if Republicans want entitlement changes, they’ll have to propose them. “What we can't do is try to figure out what they need. They have to tell us. And then, we have to take a look at it, and see if we think it makes sense for the American people.” But as bad as things sounded on the shows yesterday, let’s not panic yet. This isn’t all-hands-on-deck time. After all, President Obama was out golfing with Bill Clinton and speaking at the Kennedy Center yesterday. As we’ve told you before, the real negotiations probably won’t start until mid-December.

*** 2011 vs. 2012: Role reversal: What is striking, however, is that Democrats and Republicans now find themselves in COMPLETELY OPPOSITE places than they were in 2011. A year ago, Republicans were the ones – after their victory in the midterms – who had the political winds at their back and felt like they had the mandate. Now it’s the Democrats. In 2011, Republicans were the ones with more detailed plans about spending cuts (think the Ryan plan). Now it’s the White House with a more detailed plan. And back then, Republicans had the leverage with the debt ceiling. But now Democrats are the ones with the leverage, because of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes, “[I]f we do nothing, Democrats will get their way. All the tax cuts will expire, and Dems can come back and push a new tax cut just for the middle class -- a circumstance that will only increase the Dems' leverage further.”

*** Pelosi threatens to introduce already-passed Senate bill: And given that leverage, don’t overlook this gambit: House Minority Leader says that Democrats might try to schedule a vote, via a discharge petition, on the already-passed Senate legislation that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts only for household income below $250,000, CNN writes. “‘If Speaker Boehner refuses to schedule this widely-supported bill for a vote, Democrats will introduce a discharge petition to automatically bring to the floor the Senate-passed middle class tax cuts,’ Pelosi said in a statement. Under a ‘discharge petition,’ a bill can be brought to the floor without going through a committee or without approval of House leadership. The bill would need an absolute majority - 218 votes - to pass.”

*** Obama’s day: At 2:55 pm ET, President Obama hosts a bilateral with Bulgaria PM Boyko Borissov. And then about an hour later, at 4:00 pm, he delivers remarks at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium at the National Defense University.

*** Wasserman Schultz to remain as DNC chair: NBC has confirmed from two Democratic officials that President Obama will ask the Democratic National Committee to ratify Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) to remain as DNC chair when the party next meets in January. Politico first reported the news this morning.

*** Checking in on Romney: Over the weekend, the Washington Post ran a piece checking in on Mitt Romney a little less than a month after his presidential loss. “Four weeks after losing a presidential election he was convinced he would win, Romney’s rapid retreat into seclusion has been marked by repressed emotions, second-guessing and, perhaps for the first time in the overachiever’s adult life, sustained boredom, according to interviews with more than a dozen of Romney’s closest friends and advisers.” More: “Unlike the last two unsuccessful nominees, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Romney had no job waiting for him. His public platform fell out from under him on election night.”

*** The latest VA GOV developments: On Sunday, President Obama golfed with Bill Clinton -- but also with Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D) and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. But could McAuliffe get a primary challenge from former Rep. Tom Perriello. As the Washington Post reported on Friday, “Former congressman Tom Perriello, currently at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, has quietly approached prominent Democrats in recent weeks to let them know that he is at least considering a run, according to party operatives in Virginia. Perriello himself has not responded to several requests from The Washington Post for comment.” With Cuccinelli as the all but assured GOP nominee, the penalty for a primary on the Democratic side would SEEM to be less.

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