Obama vs. The Senate

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

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WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Senate prepares to begin debating new gun control measures, some of President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats are poised to frustrate his efforts to enact the most sweeping limits on weapons in decades.

These Democrats from largely rural states with strong gun cultures view Obama’s proposals warily and have not committed to supporting them. The lawmakers’ concerns could stand in the way of strong legislation before a single Republican gets a chance to vote “no.”

“There’s a core group of Democratic senators, most but not all from the West, who represent states with a higher-than-average rate of gun ownership but an equally strong desire to feel their kids are safe,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “They’re having hard but good conversations with people back home to identify the middle-ground solutions that respect the Second Amendment but make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.”

All eyes are on these dozen or so Democrats, some of whom face re-election in 2014. That includes Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings Wednesday.

Interest groups, lobbyists, lawmakers, crime victims and others with a stake in the outcome will be watching these senators closely for signals about what measures they might support. The answers will say a lot about what, if anything, Congress can pass in the wake of the shootings of 20 school and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month.

At issue are Obama’s proposals to ban assault weapons, limit ammunition magazines, crack down on trafficking and require universal background checks. Leading the charge against those ideas is the National Rifle Association. The group wields enormous power to rally public sentiment and is a particular threat to Democrats in pro-gun states who face re-election.

The political concerns of Democrats create problems for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has his own history with the NRA.

The powerful gun lobby endorsed him in previous elections, but stayed neutral in his most recent race, in 2010. Even before Obama announced the gun proposals this month, Reid told a Nevada PBS station that an assault weapons ban would have a hard time getting through Congress. That comment irked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., author of such a ban.

“Clearly it wasn’t helpful,” she said this past week in reintroducing her measure. But Feinstein’s original assault weapons ban was a stern political lesson for Reid and other Democrats. Its passage as part of President Bill Clinton’s crime bill in 1994 was blamed for Democratic election losses that year after the NRA campaigned against lawmakers who supported the legislation. When the assault weapons ban came up for renewal in 2004, Congress, under pressure from the NRA, refused to extend it.

Reid has pledged action on gun measures. “This is an issue we’re not going to run from,” he said. But he’s under pressure from all sides.

Some major pieces of legislation are shepherded by the Senate leadership to the Senate floor. But Reid is promising that the gun bills will go through the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman is Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a gun owner and Second Amendment supporter.

Reid also is promising an open amendment process, potentially a lengthy endeavor. Those signals have some gun control activists concerned that the process will go so slowly that it will grind to a halt without action. Some question whether that’s just the outcome desired by some moderate Democrats.

“I’m concerned just because Harry Reid has a mixed record on these things and we want him to be a champion,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

On the other side, the NRA, known for rewarding friends and punishing enemies, promises it will be closely watching Reid, too.

“He’s going to be torn and a lot of people are going to be torn, particularly Democrats, but I think as the debate goes on he’ll do more good than bad from our perspective,” said David Keene, NRA president. “All this stuff has been debated before and once you get into a debate and a discussion and say will this do anything to protect children, to prevent another Newtown, I think the answer is going to come out `no.'”

Baucus, Begich, Pryor and others have been cautious in their comments on Obama’s gun proposals.

Baucus called for “a thoughtful debate.” Begich told his home state Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that passage of any element of the package was “a long haul. … There are some of us who just fundamentally believe in a Second Amendment right.” Pryor has told Arkansas media that efforts on gun safety should start with enforcing existing laws.

Another Democrat closely watching the issue is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, known for a 2010 campaign ad where he fired a rifle shot though a copy of Democratic-written climate change legislation. Manchin recently told a West Virginia radio station that he’s working on legislation to require background checks on most gun purchases. Details weren’t clear but that’s the area where advocates are most hopeful of finding a solution that could get through the Senate and possibly even the Republican-controlled House.

The NRA generally opposes legislation mandating universal background checks and disputes gun control groups’ claims that 40 percent of purchases happen without such checks. NRA officials question whether background checks could be done effectively in a way that makes a difference and doesn’t disrupt legitimate sales.

The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, is to testify Wednesday before Leahy’s committee.

Democrats, especially those from gun-rights states, will be weighing whether to side with the NRA or follow the president, or how best to split the difference.

“We’re a Second-Amendment state. I support the rights of sportsmen and target shooters and collectors to own firearms. It’s an important part of our culture and tradition,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in an interview. “But I just hear there’s such grave concern given the experiences we’ve had with Aurora, Columbine … people all over Colorado want to prevent these massacres.”

Jackson Williams.

Get the Boot!

J.W.

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Filibuster: The English term “filibuster” derives from the Spanish filibustero, itself deriving originally from the Dutch vrijbuiter, meaning “privateer, pirate, or robber”. It is also the root of the English word Freebooter.

The use of the filibuster in the American Senate was a tactic used to delay or prevent the passage of legislation, usually opposed by a minority of members. In years past, real filibusters rarely happened since they required opposition senators to go to the effort of standing on their feet and speaking continuously for hours on end. Only the most intense and dedicated opposition would mount filibusters.

However, the “traditional” filibuster custom was significantly changed only a few years ago to allow senators to “filibuster” without actually speaking and consuming their own time. That would be equivalent to you not having to go to work and do your job but still being able to say that…

View original post 354 more words

Debt Ceiling? Again?

this article comes courtesy of Reuters:

obamaquest

(Reuters) – Congressional Republicans, frustrated by the failure of earlier efforts to get President Barack Obama to agree to spending cuts, suddenly find themselves in a fight to keep their grip on the one tool they thought would give them better leverage: Their threat to block an increase in the government’s ability to borrow money next month.

That became clear on Monday as Obama used the last news conference of his first term for his most dire – and least wonky – portrayal yet of the woes that would befall the nation if the debt ceiling is not extended.

Rather than dwell on the impact of debt default on credit ratings that many people don’t fully understand, Obama spoke instead of troops, retireesand air traffic controllers all being without their paychecks shouldRepublicans make good on their threat.

“If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans‘ benefits will be delayed,” Obama said.

“We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear material wouldn’t get their paychecks.

“….Markets could go haywire. Interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money – every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.”

Rather than try to explain how failing to raise the debt ceiling would impact borrowing, he compared it with eating “all you want” at a restaurant and then leaving “without paying the check.”

BARGAINING CHIP

The escalation (and simplification) of Obama’s rhetoric is designed by his own acknowledgement to take the debt limit entirely out of play as a bargaining chip by making it too hot to handle and thus non-negotiable.

Once having uncoupled it from the ongoing debate about spending, he can move on to the next controversy. That would mean negotiations about automatic spending cuts postponed for two months in January’s “fiscal cliff” deal and a less volatile debate at the end of March over continued funding of the government.

The United States scraped up against its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling on December 31 and is now employing special measures to meet its financial obligations. The Treasury Department said those steps could be exhausted by mid-February.

In response, Republicans are arguing that use of the debt ceiling as a bargaining tool is routine and that the consequences of refusing to raise it manageable.

Rather than prompting a default and an economic calamity decried by Democrats, these lawmakers say it will merely lead to a temporary shutdown of some government departments and programs – one that could jolt Obama into a meaningful deficit reduction deal.

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said in an interview with Reuters last week that it would lead to “temporary disruptions,” that would be blamed on Obama for refusing to bring down spending.

“Republicans should use, will have to use, for the sake of the country, any leverage they have to accomplish that goal. And the debt ceiling is one of the things that can be effective in helping to reduce spending.”

ahahaha. cartoon courtesy of Capitol Report New Mexico.

ahahaha. cartoon courtesy of Capitol Report New Mexico.

To back up their case that the debt ceiling is a routine bargaining device, senate Republican aides sent the media a note showing numerous cases of spending restraint going back to the 1980s that were attached to debt limit increases.

But lists compiled from the archives of Congress tend not to resonate with the public. And talk of shutting down the government – let alone actually going through with it – has proven counterproductive, even ruinous, to Republicans in the past.

After the government shutdown of 1995, polls showed that the public overwhelmingly blamed Republicans rather than President Bill Clinton for the disruption, a response which helped Clinton battle his way to a second term in office in 1996.

HEARTS AND MINDS

Some say that the current back and forth is still just early jousting over the issue.

“We’re still in the phase where you try to win the hearts and minds of voters before there’s any negotiations,” said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group, which advises institutional investors on Washington politics. “Both sides are just digging in their heels.”

Obama and congressional Democrats are hoping the U.S. business community will help them win the debt limit argument by pressuring Republicans to promptly approve an increase in borrowing authority.

In recent days, U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials repeatedly have warned that leading the government to a default on its debt could result in serious economic disruptions.

Meanwhile, John Engler, the head of the Business Roundtable, a trade group of company chief executives, has recently called for a five-year increase in the debt limit, divorcing it from the spending debate.

With an inauguration address next Monday and the State of the Union address in February, Obama can be expected to keep hammering away on this theme.

Republicans want deep cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs and savings from the Social Security retirement program. Democrats are resisting these, and will likely only offer modest savings by adjusting inflation assumptions.

Some, though, do caution that while Obama may make headway in the public relations war, his approach could backfire.

“Obama blasting Congressional Republicans has this perverse flip side of only strengthening their resolve,” said Chris Krueger, a political analyst at the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners in Washington.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Fred Barbash, Martin Howell and Jim Loney)

Jackson Williams.

The Second Inauguration

obamainaug

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s second inauguration is shaping up as a high-energy celebration smaller than his first milestone swearing-in, yet still designed to mark his unprecedented role in American history with plenty of eye-catching glamour.

A long list of celebrity performers will give the once-every-four years right of democratic passage the air of a star-studded concert, from the bunting-draped Capitol’s west front of the Capitol, where Obama takes the oath Jan. 21, to the Washington Convention Center, which is expected to be packed with 40,000 ball-goers that evening.

The first family will lead a parade of clanging bands, elaborate floats and marchers, including costumed dancers, prancing horses and military units, down Pennsylvania Avenue. The president will dance with the first lady, whose dress seems destined to be most anticipated fashion statement of the second Obama administration.

Estimates of turnout are 600,000 to 800,000, compared with the 1.8 million in the record crowd on the National Mall four years ago to see the first swearing in of a black president. The mood of this 57th inauguration will be tempered by the weak economy, high unemployment, the aftermath of the Connecticut elementary school shooting and the long war in Afghanistan that’s expected to require U.S. combat forces through the end of next year.

Yet recent developments have shown that inaugural enthusiasm is high.

A limited offering of $60 inaugural ball tickets for the general public sold out quickly, and inauguration planners have tried to crack down on scalping business that’s sprung up online. There’s an impressive list of celebrities, including Beyonce, Katy Perry and Usher, who have signed on to perform.

While organizers said Obama was cutting back the number of balls from 10 last time to just two this year, The Associated Press has learned that they are expecting more than 35,000 to attend the larger of the two and 4,000 to attend a ball in honor of U.S. troops – double the size of four years ago.

Another factor that could increase turnout is the unseasonably warm weather in Washington. Early forecasts indicate that Obama will be taking the oath of office while the temperature is in the 40s, with hardly any chance of precipitation.

Steve Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said that just because the festivities are going to be smaller doesn’t mean they are going to be any less significant.

“What we’ve been seeing from the very beginning is a passion and energy for this inaugural because people want to be a part of history,” Kerrigan said. “This is a moment that’s only happened 56 other times.”

Obama’s speech gives him a moment to command the world’s attention on a level that’s rare even for a president.

If history is any guide, Obama will try to put behind the divisive election. He has the State of the Union three weeks later to make his points on taxes, guns, immigration and other issues. It’s a good bet this day will be a patriotic love letter to America.

“Second inaugurals are often a kind of victory lap speech in a lot of ways, that would go back to Thomas Jefferson in 1805,” said presidential historian Leo Ribuffo of George Washington University. “Presidents are often reflecting on accomplishments of the administration and the challenges that will continue into the second term.”

The 2009 inauguration will be remembered as a milestone for a nation built on slavery and blood-stained by the civil rights movement. But Obama clearly has that historical context in mind for his second go-round, as evidenced by the Bibles he chose to place his left hand on while taking the oath of office – one owned by Abraham Lincoln and one by Martin Luther King Jr.

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Their selection is especially symbolic because Obama’s second inauguration comes on the federal holiday marking King’s birthday and in a milestone anniversary year involving both men. It was 150 years ago when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery, and 50 years ago when King delivered his “I Had a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – a monument that will be straight ahead in Obama’s sight as he speaks to his country.

“We’ve got the Bible of the great emancipator on top of the Bible of the leader of the civil rights movement for an African- American president to take the oath of office,” Kerrigan said. “It’s an amazing moment that people want to touch and feel and be a part of.”

The inauguration will transform Washington, where most federal offices would be closed for the King holiday, by shutting down streets downtown and bringing regular daily life in the city to a halt. Viewing stands are set up along Pennsylvania Avenue for the parade from the Capitol to the White House. Street lamps will be removed, then replaced at the day’s end.

It takes lots of people to pull it all off.

There are 550 people working for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, 1,300 members of the military coming in support roles and countless security officials, including police from multiple agencies and Secret Service providing security. The cost is high: Tens of millions of dollars in donations typically are raised to pay for the parade and parties, more than $1 million is appropriated by Congress for the swearing-in ceremony and security costs are kept under wraps but also covered by taxpayers.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who oversees the ceremony on Capitol grounds, has committed to preventing the crowd problems that marred the 2009 celebration, when thousands of ticketholders got stuck for hours underground in what became known as “the purple tunnel of doom.” That 3rd Street tunnel is being closed, and Schumer says there will be better signs to direct attendees, and staff will monitor Twitter and other social media to detect and address any problems.

Obama’s inaugural theme, “Our People. Our Future,” is meant to reflect the strength of Americans, their ability to overcome challenges and the country’s diversity. Diversity has been a focus in choosing participants throughout the festivities, with performers representing a range of demographics and parade participants from all 50 states.

The entertainment, too, reflects a variety of musical talents, with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor performing patriotic standards at the swearing-in ceremony. Others such as Smokey Robinson, Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Marc Anthony, Stevie Wonder and the cast of “Glee,” are signed up for the other events, including a children’s concert next Saturday and the president’s two official balls.

Obama plans to kick off the weekend’s festivities on that Saturday with the National Day of Service, a call for Americans to serve their communities in honor King’s legacy. Obama, a former community organizer in Chicago, started the volunteer program four years ago and inaugural organizers say he hopes future presidents will continue it.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee is setting up a fair on the National Mall to encourage service that day and beyond and has staff working in all 50 states to coordinate local programs. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their families plan to personally participate in projects in Washington

Also on Saturday, first Lady Michelle Obama and Biden’s wife, Jill, are set to host a concert for America’s children as they did four years ago. Popular young artists are putting on a show and tickets are being distributed to Washington schoolchildren, among others. The concert will pay special tribute to military families as part of the two women’s focus on supporting their service and sacrifice.

At noon on Sunday, Jan. 20, the time the Constitution requires the new term to begin, Obama plans to take his official oath in the White House’s Blue Room with some media coverage, while Biden plans an official swearing in at the Naval Observatory. The public ceremony is not being held until the next day because inaugurations historically have not been held on Sundays.

Jackson Williams.

“Death Star? Are you all HIGH?” — The White House

DeathStar

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For: The White House responds to a petition asking for a Death Star…

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

However, look carefully (here’s how) and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky — that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts — American, Russian, and Canadian — living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We’ve also got two robot science labs — one wielding a laser — roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.

Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo — and soon, crew — to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.

Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.

We don’t have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.

We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White Housescience fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country’s future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.

If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star’s power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget

Jackson Williams.

The War in Afghanistan: Endgame

Soldier

courtesy of the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Uneasy allies, President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai demonstrated Friday they could agree on one big idea: After 11 years of war, the time is right for U.S. forces to let Afghans do their own fighting. U.S. and coalition forces will take a battlefield back seat by spring and, by implication, go home in larger numbers soon thereafter.

“It will be a historic moment,” Obama declared.

In a White House meeting billed as a chance to take stock of a war that now ranks as America’s longest, Obama and Karzai agreed to accelerate their timetable for putting the Afghanistan army in the lead combat role nationwide. It will happen this spring instead of summer – a shift that looks small but looms larger in the debate over how quickly to bring U.S. troops home and whether some should stay after combat ends in 2014.

The two leaders also agreed that the Afghan government would be given full control of detention centers and detainees. They did not reach agreement on an equally sticky issue: whether any U.S. troops remaining after 2014 would be granted immunity from prosecution under Afghan law. Immunity is a U.S. demand that the Afghans have resisted, saying they want assurances on other things – like authority over detainees – first.

At a joint news conference with Karzai in the White House East Room, Obama said he was not yet ready to decide the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals between now and December 2014. That is the target date set by NATO and the Afghan government for the international combat mission to end. There are now 66,000 U.S. troops there.

Obama’s message was clear: The Afghans must now show they are capable of standing on their own.

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“By the end of next year, 2014, the transition will be complete – Afghans will have full responsibility for their security, and this war will come to a responsible end,” he said, noting that more than 2,000 Americans have died since the war began in October 2001.

The Afghan army and police now have 352,000 in training or on duty, although that number is viewed by many as unsustainable because the government is almost entirely reliant on international aid to pay the bills.

Some private security analysts – and some in the Pentagon – worry that pulling out to quickly will leave Afghanistan vulnerable to collapse. In a worst-case scenario, that could allow the Taliban to regain power and revert to the role they played in the years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as protectors of al-Qaida terrorists bent on striking the U.S.

Many Americans, however, are weary of the war and skeptical of any claim that Afghanistan is worth more U.S. blood.

In a reflection of the diminishing support in Congress for a robust U.S. role in Afghanistan, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a member of the Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Obama on Friday urging him to significantly reduce the number of American troops in the region and bring American forces home as quickly as possible.

“Our troops have accomplished their mission: Osama bin Laden is dead, extremist networks in Afghanistan have been disrupted so that they are no longer a credible international threat and the Afghan security forces have received training and equipment for nearly a decade,” Manchin wrote. “It is now time to let Afghanistan determine its own future.”

Obama and Karzai also have to decide whether a residual U.S. force will remain after 2014 to prevent al-Qaida from re-establishing a substantial presence in Afghanistan and to continue training and advising Afghan forces. U.S. commanders have recommended that 6,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops remain for those purposes, but the White House seems to believe the true need is closer to 3,000 – or possibly even zero.

Asked at the news conference about a potential post-2104 U.S. military presence, Karzai said, “Numbers are not going to make a difference to the situation in Afghanistan. It’s the broader relationship that will make a difference.”

Although it’s not widely recognized in the U.S., American forces have greatly scaled back their combat role already. In a joint statement, Obama and Karzai said Afghan forces now lead more than 80 percent of combat operations, and by next month they will be in the lead in security for nearly 90 percent of the Afghan population.

Once the Afghans take the lead across the country this spring, “most unilateral U.S. combat operations should end, with U.S. forces pulling back their patrols from Afghan villages,” the leaders said in a joint statement. They added that this puts greater importance on providing the Afghans “appropriate equipment and enablers,” although they made no mention of specific new agreements to equip the Afghan army or police.

“Starting this spring our troops will have a different mission: training, advising and assisting Afghan forces,” Obama said.

He added later that even in a backup role he could not rule out that U.S. troops could be drawn into combat.

“The environment is going to still be very dangerous,” Obama said. But he emphasized that the main role of U.S. forces starting this spring will be support, such as training and advising.

Karzai said he was pleased by the agreement, in part because it means that by spring there will be no foreign troops in Afghan villages. That implies an end to a U.S.-led program in which U.S. special operations forces have moved into rural villages in small numbers to quietly build the beginnings of local resistance to the Taliban.

In their statement the leaders said they discussed the possibility of a continued U.S. troop presence beyond December 2014, when the U.S. and allied combat mission is to end. But they did not settle on any specifics.

Friday’s meeting was the first between Obama and Karzai since November’s U.S. presidential election.

(Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.)

Jackson Williams.

UPDATE: The Fiscal Cliff

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Working with Congress against a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama said Monday that a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” was in sight but not yet finalized. The emerging deal would raise tax rates on family income over $450,000 and individual income over $400,000 a year, increase the estate tax rate and extend unemployment benefits for one year.

“There are still issues left to resolve but we’re hopeful Congress can get it done,” Obama said at a campaign-style event at the White House. “But it’s not done.”

caphill

In the building New Year’s Eve drama, the parties still were at an impasse over whether to put off the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect at the beginning of the year and if so, how to pay for that.

One official said talks were focused on a two-month delay in the across-the-board cuts but negotiators had yet to agree on about $24 billion in savings from elsewhere in the budget. Democrats had asked for the cuts to be put off for one year and be offset by unspecified revenue.

The president said that whatever last-minute fixes are necessary, they must come from a blend of tax revenue and constrained spending, not just budget cuts.

Officials emphasized that negotiations were continuing and the emerging deal was not yet final. And a confident Obama, flanked by cheering middle class Americans in a White House auditorium, jabbed Congress, saying lawmakers were prone to last-minute delays.

“One thing we can count on with respect to this Congress is that if there’s even one second left before you have to do what you’re supposed to do, they will use that last second,” he said.

Speaking shortly afterward on the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain said that “at a time of crisis, on New Year’s Eve…you had the president of the United States go over and have a cheerleading, ridiculing-of-Republicans exercise.” The Arizona Republican lost the 2008 presidential race to Obama.

Unless an agreement is reached and approved by Congress at the start of the New Year, more than $500 billion in 2013 tax increases will take effect immediately and $109 billion in cuts will be carved from defense and domestic programs

Though the tax hikes and budget cuts would be felt gradually, economists warn that if allowed to fully take hold, their combined impact – the so-called fiscal cliff – would rekindle a recession.

The current proposal in the works would raise the tax rates on family income over $450,000 and individual income over $400,000 from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, the same level as under former President Bill Clinton. Also, estates would be taxed at 40 percent after the first $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a couple, up from 35 percent to 40 percent.

Unemployment benefits would be extended for one year. Without the extension, 2 million people would lose benefits beginning in early January.

A Republican official familiar with the plans confirmed the details described to The Associated Press.

The officials requested anonymity in order to discuss the internal negotiations.

The president said his hopes for a larger, more sweeping deal have been dashed and said that such an accommodation was not possible “with this Congress at this time.”

But even with this fight not finished, Obama warned Republicans, specifically, about the battles still ahead. He said he would not accept any debt-reduction deals in the new year that rely on slashing spending without raising taxes, too. Cuts alone won’t happen anymore “at least as long as I’m president, and I’m going to be president for the next four years.”

Urgent talks were continuing Monday afternoon between the White House and congressional Republicans, with longtime negotiating partners Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell at the helm. Underscoring the flurry of activity, another GOP aide said the two men had conversations at 12:45 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Monday.

An agreement on the proposed deal would also shield Medicare doctors from a 27 percent cut in fees and extend tax credits for research and development, as well as renewable energy.

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The deal would also extend for five years a series of tax credits meant to lessen the financial burden on poorer and middle-class families, including one credit that helps people pay for college.

The deal would achieve about $600 billion in new revenue, the officials said.

Despite the progress in negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that time was running out to finalize the deal.

“Americans are still threatened with a tax hike in just a few hours,” said Reid, D-Nev., as the Senate began an unusual New Year’s Eve session.

Liberal Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, took to the Senate floor after Reid to warn Democratic bargainers against lowering levies on large inherited estates and raising the income threshold at which higher tax rates would kick in.

“No deal is better than a bad deal. And this look like a very bad deal the way this is shaping up,” said Harkin.

Letting tax rates rise for couples with incomes of $450,000 a year is a concessions for Obama, who campaigned for re-election on a pledge to set the levels at $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples. It also marked a significant concession by Republican leaders who pledged to continue the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all income earners. .

The hope of the White House and lawmakers was to seal an agreement, enact it and send it to Obama for his signature before taxpayers felt the impact of higher income taxes or federal agencies began issuing furloughs or taking other steps required by spending cuts.

Regardless of the fate of the negotiations, it appeared all workers would experience a cut in their take-home pay with the expiration of a two-year cut in payroll taxes.

In a move that was sure to irritate Republicans, Reid was planning – absent a deal – to force a Senate vote Monday on Obama’s campaign-season proposal to continue expiring tax cuts for all but those with income exceeding $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

As the New Year’s Eve deadline rapidly approached, Democrats and Republicans found themselves at odds over a host of issues, including taxing large inherited estates. Republicans wanted the tax left at its current 35 percent, with the first $5.1 million excluded, while Democrats wanted the rate increased to 45 percent with a smaller exclusion.

The two sides were also apart on how to keep the alternative minimum tax from raising the tax bills of nearly 30 million middle-income families and how to extend tax breaks for research by business and other activities.

Republicans were insisting that budget cuts be found to pay for some of the spending proposals Democrats were pushing.

These included proposals to erase scheduled defense and domestic cuts exceeding $200 billion over the next two years and to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans complained that in effect, Democrats would pay for that spending with the tax boosts on the wealthy.

“We can’t use tax increases on anyone to pay for more spending,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

Eds: Associated Press writers David Espo, Andrew Taylor, Alan Fram and Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

Jackson Williams.