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Obama agenda: Room for compromise

OK, now we can talk. Now that House Speaker John Boehner crossed the threshold and proposed raising taxes at all, the president is moving off of what was a seemingly ironclad position on raising rates on those making $250,000 a year or more.

The AP: “Narrowing a ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiating gap, President Barack Obama is backing off what had once been ironclad positions. A new proposal handed to House Speaker John Boehner on Monday drops Obama's long-held insistence that taxes rise on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000. He is now offering a new threshold of $400,000 and lowering his 10-year tax revenue goals from the $1.6 trillion he had argued for a few weeks ago. Obama also abandoned his demand for permanent borrowing authority. Instead, he is now asking for a new debt limit that would last two years, putting its renewal beyond the politics of a 2014 midterm election.”

USA Today’s Davis: “There is strong agreement that President Obama and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, should compromise party doctrine to solve the ‘fiscal cliff,’ and by a nearly 2-to-1 margin the public approves of Obama's handling of the ongoing negotiations over Boehner. According to the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 66% said the two negotiators should compromise ‘on their principles and beliefs’ on taxes and spending to avert the year-end ‘fiscal cliff’ when all of the George W. Bush-era tax rates will expire and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over a decade will begin, threatening an economic recession in 2013. …  A steady 48% approve of the president's handling, while only 25% approve of Boehner's handling.” 

Washington Post: “Most Americans want President Obama and congressional Republicans to compromise on a budget agreement, though they, too, are unhappy about the options that would avert the “fiscal cliff,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” But: “Most Americans oppose slashing spending on Medicaid and the military, as well as raising the age for Medicare eligibility and slowing the increase of Social Security benefits, all of which appear to be on the table in negotiations. Majorities call each of these items ‘unacceptable.’”

More: “A clear majority of Americans, 74 percent, say they would tolerate Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on those with incomes over $250,000, but neither side in the talks thinks that alone would generate enough revenue to bridge the budget gap.” And: “Fully 76 percent see the Republicans as too intractable on the deficit issue, and most, 57 percent, also see Obama as not being willing enough to compromise.”

CBS: “[O]nly half of Americans think a deal on taxes and spending cuts will be made before the end of the year. Forty-four percent expect time will run out. Democrats (58 percent) are much more optimistic about a deal than Republicans (38 percent). Right now all parties involved - President Obama and Democrats and Republicans in Congress -- receive negative marks for how they are handling the negotiations over taxes and spending cuts. The public is more critical of the Republicans in Congress on this matter - 69 percent disapprove of the Republicans in Congress compared to 50 percent disapproving of the president and congressional Democrats. Meantime, 38 percent approve of how the president and Democrats are handling these negotiations compared to 17 percent approving of congressional Republicans. Raising taxes on those with household incomes of $250,000 is supported by most Americans (69 percent to 29 percent), but they are divided on reducing government services and programs that benefit people like themselves in the name of deficit reduction; 45 percent favor that, while 48 percent oppose it.”

Reuters: “After making major concessions on long-held ‘fiscal cliff’ positions, President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner will test the reaction Tuesday of their respective parties in the U.S. Congress and continue talks aimed at further narrowing their differences. … In rapid developments Monday, the two sides came significantly closer to bridging gaps on critical issues such as tax hikes for the wealthy and cuts in Social Security cost-of-living benefits. Those issues have the potential to cause problems politically for both leaders, as Republicans and Democrats start to study them.”

Not everyone’s happy with Boehner’s deal. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, in the House leadership team, rejected Boehner’s plan, calling it a “false promise.”

Market Watch: Dickering between the White House and congressional Republicans over higher taxes on the wealthy is in full swing, according to news reports, helping to lift Asian and European equities and pushing U.S. stock index futures on hopes politicians will manage to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. Alternatively waning and waxing expectations surrounding a solution to the cliff – a combination of massive spending cuts and tax hikes set to automatically begin taking effect Jan. 1 unless a deal is reached – have driven global financial markets since President Barack Obama won re-election in early November.