Joe Biden heads to the Hill to talk taxes
1. Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Senate Democrats today on Capitol Hill, hoping to draw on his long personal relationships with many of his former colleagues to soothe angry reaction to the deal cut by the White House on tax cuts yesterday.
"[Biden] will make the case that because the Senate Democrats could not pass a bill that allowed the tax cuts for the wealthy to expire there [were] two options: let taxes go up on everyone which is bad for the economy and unfair to folks whose taxes would go up or reach a compromise," explained a senior White House official, adding: "This is a very good compromise."
(Democrats voted over the weekend on legislation that would eliminate tax cuts for those making under $250,000 and under $1 million; both efforts failed to garner the necessary 60 votes to end debate and bring the proposals to a floor debate.)
Early returns suggested Biden has some work to do.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) called the deal, which would extend the Bush era tax cuts for two years while also extending unemployment benefits, an "absolute disaster".
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) said that he was "not at all happy" with the deal while his Ohio colleague George Voinovich (R) pledged earlier Monday not to support any compromise that included an extension of the Bush tax cuts.
The complaints, which are, generally, grouped on the more liberal end of the Democratic House and Senate caucuses are what Biden is being sent to the Hill to address -- trying to quiet dissension within the Democratic ranks before it grows large and loud enough to overwhelm a compromise weeks in the making.
It's for exactly these sorts of moments that Biden was chosen by President Obama as his second-in-command. Unlike the president who spent just a few years on Capitol Hill and largely ran against Congress during his presidential bid, Biden has long been a creature of the Senate -- spending the better part of four decades learning its intricacies and the various pressure points required to achieve legislative results.
"He is going to the Senate where he has longstanding relationships and a deep reservoir of good will," explained the White House official.
It remains to be seen whether Biden can sell the proposal to wary Senators (and House members). Context matters in politics, and particularly when it comes to major legislation like this; the tax cut deal comes roughly one month after Democrats took significant losses in their House and Senate ranks, defeats many on the Hill ascribe to a presidential agenda that left them hanging out to dry politically.
Are they in the mood to make nice?
2. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) announced Monday that she will not run for Republican National Committee chairman, despite the urging of a national tea party group.
"I respect the desire to have someone in charge of the RNC who understands the wishes of the conservative grassroots and understands that power resides with the people and not the vested interests in DC," Palin wrote in a statement to ABC News.
Added Palin: "The primary role of the RNC chair seems be that of fundraiser-in-chief, and there are others who would probably be much more comfortable asking people for money than I would be, and they would definitely enjoy it more."
Palin made the announcement after the group Tea Party Nation penned a letter urging her to run for the job.
"We need you as chairman of the RNC," Tea Party Nation's Judson Phillips wrote. "You have shown in the past no hesitation to take on the establishment. You did it in Alaska. If we end up with establishment control of the GOP and their support for an establishment candidate in 2012, Obama and the socialists will have won."
Phillips also took aim at current RNC Chairman Michael Steele, charging that Steele has "spent Republican money with the gusto of a liberal."
An RNC chairmanship run almost certainly would have put Palin out of the running for a potential White House 2012 bid.
Perhaps even more newsworthy than Palin's announcement, however, is the fact that she made it not via Twitter or Facebook -- her preferred communications medium since serving as the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2008 -- but through a message to a mainstream news organization.
3. Former Missouri Republican Sen. Jim Talent would start out a Senate primary with a commanding lead, according to a new poll from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling.
The PPP poll found Talent leading Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman by a wide margin in a three-candidate Republican primary. Talent comes in at 53 percent, with Kinder at 26 and Steelman at 17.
Part of the reason for Talent's big early lead is undoubtedly his name recognition advantage, having spent six years in the Senate and run unsuccessfully for governor in 2000 as well. Despite being four years out of office, he's still known to nearly 70 percent of GOP voters. Kinder and Steelman are both known to less than 50 percent.
The poll did not test a head-to-head Talent versus Steelman race, which seems much more likely than a three-way contest. Kinder is thought to have his eyes on a challenge to Gov. Jay Nixon (D) rather than a Senate run.
Steelman is the only candidate officially in the race. Talent is expected to make a decision by early next year.
4. New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman John Sununu announced Monday that he will not seek a second term in his post.
In addition to likely bringing to a close the career of one of the more noteworthy Granite State politicians in recent history, Sununu's exit also paves the way for a new state GOP chairman -- an important role given the state's roll in the presidential nominating process.
Sununu announced his exit in a letter to supporters.
"Many of you have been kind enough to ask me to stay on for a second term, but I truly cannot do it with the same contribution of time and energy as I was able to provide over the past two years," Sununu said.
Sununu, a former governor and White House chief of staff, is also the father of former Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.).
Another one of his sons, James Sununu, is mentioned as a possible replacement as chairman. Other possibilities include Cheshire County GOP Chairwoman Juliana Bergeron, former congressional candidate Jennifer Horn and former state GOP Executive Director Paul Young.
The new chairman will be picked at the party's annual meeting on Jan. 22.
5. Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is urging attorney Joe Miller (R) to drop his legal challenge in his race against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), arguing that Miller's case against the state is "virtually certain to fail."
"It is time for Joe Miller to put Alaska interests ahead of personal ambition and allow the state of Alaska to certify Lisa Murkowski as the winner," Begich said in a statement. "Without both senators, Alaska's interests will be at risk on critical issues from energy development to job creation and reducing the national debt in a way that's fair to Alaskans."
Miller responded Monday night that Begich should "get back to work and stop wasting time in D.C."
"Contrary to Begich's assertion, personal ambition has nothing to do with the legal issues, and such a statement reflects a serious misunderstanding if not a complete ignorance about the election process and the issues involved. I think Begich would better serve Alaska by working on a budget that does not bankrupt our country instead of fiddling away while Rome burns," Miller said.
An Alaska judge is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Wednesday. If Miller's camp decides to appeal the decision, the case could extend into the new year and potentially endanger Murkowski's Senate seniority.
Meanwhile, Miller's camp says that it has raised more than $241,000 since last month's election.
With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez
| December 7, 2010; 7:56 AM ET
Categories: Morning Fix
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