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Fiscal cliff: On the brink – of a deal or collapse?

The Boston Globe’s Johnson yesterday: “The spirit of public comity that followed last week’s mass murder of first-graders in Newtown, Conn., ended today with a pair of dueling news conferences by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in Washington. While both men had previously said the national trauma of seeing 26 people gunned down in the Sandy Hook Elementary School was enough to put politics in its place, each quickly fell back into the type of political rhetoric that preceded the shooting.”

USA Today: “Both sides sharpened their rhetoric Wednesday, suggesting they may be at loggerheads with hundreds of billions in tax increase and budget cuts set to be triggered in 12 days.”

“Boehner, R-Ohio, responded to Obama with a defiant tone. In an appearance before reporters that lasted under a minute, Boehner called on Obama to offer a deficit-cutting plan balanced between spending cuts and tax increases and predicted that the House would pass his backup plan,” the New York Daily News writes.

Politico: “Obama and Boehner hit their lowest point yet during a day of sharp words and legislative confusion — and the outlook significantly darkened for reaching a deficit-reduction deal before the new year. The talks are stalled, and Boehner is scrambling to muscle his own bill through the House — a proposal the president has already promised to veto.”

The Hill: “Fiscal-cliff talks deteriorated into dueling press conferences on Wednesday as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) scrambled for enough Republican votes to pass his backup tax plan over a presidential veto threat.”

The New York Times: “Hopes for a broad deficit-reduction agreement faded on Wednesday as President Obama insisted he had offered Republicans ‘a fair deal’ while Speaker John A. Boehner moved for a House vote as early as Thursday on a scaled-down plan to limit tax increases to yearly incomes of $1 million and up, despite Senate opposition and Mr. Obama’s veto threat.”

Roll Call: “With both Democrats and hard-line conservative Republicans vowing to tank his “plan B” bill that would allow tax increases on millionaires, Boehner’s test Thursday will be to show the White House and Democrats that he has some control over his unruly conference as time to produce a deal averting tax hikes and automatic spending cuts runs out.” More: “Behind the scenes, however, members were asking that spending cuts be part of any legislative package, including the speaker’s plan B. And leadership aides said the final package was still up in the air. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and his team were hard at work trying to sell Boehner’s plan, but by press time, no one but Boehner had expressed total optimism that the legislation would be successful.”

A CNN poll finds: “53% say the GOP should compromise more, with 41% saying the Democratic Party should give up more of the proposals it supports to develop bipartisan solutions.” And a majority say the Republican Party’s views and policies are too extreme – 53%-43%. Democrats are seen as having mainstream rather than extreme policies by a 57%-37% majority.

John Boehner only gets a 34%/52% approval in how he’s handling his job as speaker. Yet by a 51%-43% margin, people say it’s good for the country that the GOP is in control of the House. By 49%-31%, people say they have more confidence in the president than Republicans in Congress to deal with major issues facing the country.