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Congress: GOP boxed in?

The New York Times: “With President Obama insisting on higher tax rates for affluent Americans and winning public support for the idea, Congressional Republicans find themselves in an increasingly difficult political spot and are quietly beginning to look for a way out.” More: The leadership officials now say that if no deal can be struck to avert the automatic expiration of all the Bush-era tax cuts and the onset of deep, across-the-board spending cuts, they could foresee taking up and passing legislation this month to extend the tax cuts for the middle class and then resume the bitter fight over spending and taxes as the nation approaches the next hard deadline: its statutory borrowing limit, which could be reached in late January or February.”

What it all boils down to… Politico: “Obama and Boehner are locked in a struggle for public opinion, the weapon that provides the upper hand in the negotiations. The advantage, at this point, clearly belongs to Obama. Senior administration aides say the president doesn’t want to go over the fiscal cliff — but he’s willing to if Republicans don’t yield on tax rates. And multiple polls find the public is on Obama’s side, showing that voters will blame the GOP if no deal is reached. Republicans are desperate to gain political ground — and say Monday’s counteroffer by Boehner at least gives them hope of turning public opinion back in their favor.”

USA Today’s editorial page praises the GOP counteroffer as “serious.” It writes: “Obama and fellow Democrats would do well to treat it for what it is: a credible bid to start dealing with runaway deficits. In fact, it is superior to the offer Obama put on the table last week, as it more aggressively targets the government's biggest budget problems and refrains from adding costly spending. The new GOP plan is, to be sure, far from perfect, particularly on the revenue side. Republicans continue to insist that additional tax revenue should come only from closing deductions, credits and other ‘tax expenditures,’ not from the higher rates they have pledged to oppose.”

The Boston Globe notes that the fiscal cliff deduction cap offered by Republicans would most affect the “comfortable”: “Whether you call yourself rich, fairly well-off, or merely upper-middle-class, you are in the crosshairs of the Washington tax debate. House Republicans’ proposals to cap or even eliminate itemized deductions would exact a bigger toll on upper- to high-income earners in the professional classes. These earners are not the Warren Buffetts and the Mitt Romneys. They are the smartly suited, rank-and-file achievers who populate financial districts and research parks. They drive base-model BMWs and have timeshares in Florida, not their own private islands. They are comfortable but still worry about college tuitions, retirement savings, vacation money — and they are the slice of America that relies most heavily on tax deductions for mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions to reduce their annual taxes, specialists say.”

“In the end, Kerry and other supporters fell five votes short of the 66 needed for ratification of the international pact known as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities -- hailed by advocates as a human rights effort to transform how nations across the world treat those with long-term physical, mental and intellectual impairments, particularly children who face a future of bleakness because of their disabilities,” the Boston Globe notes, adding, “The treaty had already been approved by the European Union and 125 countries, including China and Russia.”

More: The treaty was supported by President George W. Bush, who helped negotiate it and whose father, President George H. Bush, signed the ADA into law in 1990. Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, looking frail and requiring a wheelchair, returned to the chamber on Tuesday in a symbolic show of support for the treaty. Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and staunch supporter of the treaty, read from a letter written by Dole. But McCain’s fellow Republican from Arizona, Senator Jon Kyl, helped defeat the bill.”

Elizabeth Warren is "likely" to get a spot on the Banking Committee, a Democratic aide tells NBC.  "She is likely to get it," the aide said, "but nothing is final until everything's final." The aide warns: "Nothing's final until the slate is confirmed by the caucus. Reporting that she is definitely on it is premature."

But all signs are that Warren wants the assignment and is going to get it, despite reports that the banking lobby has tried to stop her from getting the post.

Kathleen Parker takes a shot at John McCain for his opposition to Susan Rice to be Secretary of State. The real reason, she says for the opposition: “She’s not a member of the most elite club in America, the U.S. Senate.” More: “[T]he opposition’s arguments are weak, chief among them that Rice isn’t qualified. This from McCain, whose vetting history includes about 80 minutes of conversation with Sarah Palin before selecting her as his running mate in 2008. McCain’s opinion about Rice’s qualifications is only slightly less compelling than his thoughts on Playtex vs. Spanx.”

“A Republican lawmaker says a new report that details how references to al-Qaeda were removed from White House talking points on the U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi is further evidence the Obama administration tried to mislead the public about what happened,” USA Today writes. " ‘There appears to be a concerted effort to mislead the American people,’ says Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah. ‘At this point the Obama administration has been elusive at best and misleading at worse.’”

What a story… the story of the seven-week congressman: “Newly elected Rep. Dave Curson moved into his spacious, sun-drenched Capitol Hill office three weeks ago, eager to savor every minute of his congressional career,” Politico notes. “And relish it he must: In four more weeks, it’ll all be over. The Michigan Democrat just won his first congressional race, but in a twist of redistricting he’s already a lame duck. He was elected to a mere seven-week stint, ending on Jan. 2, to finish out Republican former Rep. Thad McCotter’s term.