President Obama is having his first big bipartisan meeting since the midterm blowout as lawmakers return to Washington for the last weeks of the lame-duck session. Congress has a lot on its plate--unemployment benefits, Don't Ask Don't Tell, immigration, child nutrition, tax cuts--and the meeting could offer a sign of how much or little the president will scale back his agenda after major losses in the elections. But both the White House and the GOP are downsizing their ambitions for the meeting, saying it will last no more than an hour and focus mostly on tax cuts.Despite the anticipated attendance of Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, and Office of Management and Budget head Jack Lew, the the supposedly high-stakes meeting might just be for show, The Washington Post's Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake report. They add, "the takeaway from Tuesday's summit may simply be that it took place, and that it's the first of many steps to come. But with the clock ticking on the lame-duck session, will either side begin to ratchet up the pressure -- and if so, when?"
- This Is About Power, The Wall Street Journal's Gerald F. Seib writes. “The first debate of the 2012 presidential election cycle will occur Tuesday, and taxes will be the subject. It's quite possible that, in the end, the tax cuts simply will be extended for everyone temporarily, punting the debate into next year and beyond. Meanwhile, there likely will be lots of maneuvers and test votes, all designed to probe the underlying question: What is the real balance of power in Washington in the wake of the midterm elections?”
- The First in a Series of Meetings, David Jackson writes at USA Today. "Obama and the Republicans are beginning to explore the new political landscape, as the GOP adds six new senators and prepares to take control of the U.S. House next year. And while there are immediate issues at hand... the president and his Republican opponents must also wrestle with long-term issues, particularly the size of the $13.7 trillion federal debt."
- Even a Tax Cut Deal Looks Unlikely, The Hill's Sam Youngman reports. Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs "said he doesn’t anticipate the leaders to emerge having formed a consensus on the thorny issue of extending the Bush tax cuts" after an hourlong meeting. But he does hope everyone agrees that it's important to do something. The START treaty with Russia is the second priority.
- GOP Will Want Some Concessions, Jeremy P. Jacobs predicts at Hotline On Call. "Expect Republicans to press the White House on extending the Bush era tax cuts and across the board spending reductions. 'If the president and Democratic leaders put forth a plan during the lame duck session to stop all of the tax hikes and cut spending, they can count on a positive response from Republicans,' said one GOP leadership aide. There may be some room for compromise; Obama's proposed pay freeze got rave reviews among Republicans on Monday."
- John Boehner and Mitch McConnell Expect More Conflict, judging by their op-ed in The Washington Post. They write that the Democrats' "focus for the brief post-election 'lame duck' session is on controversial items such as immigration, a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' more spending and environmental regulations... Indeed, their actual legislative plan for the rest of the lame-duck session is to focus on anything but jobs."
- They're Just Going to Yell for a Couple Weeks, Roll Call's John Stanton and Kathleen Hunter report. "Republicans and Democrats appear content to end the 111th Congress the way it started, by following a 'change' election with a round of fiercely partisan fighting over an agenda that even many Democrats have little interest in." So far, lawmakers have offered few details on what they're going to do this session. Stanton and Hunter continue, "despite elections earlier this month signaling the public’s demand for more change, neither party seems eager to find bipartisan agreement on anything of consequence."
- Time for Obama to Get Humble, Kathryn Jean Lopez argues at The National Review. "When the president’s first post-Thanksgiving move was to adopt a Republican idea [a freeze on federal salaries], it’s going to be hard for him to get by by spending the next few years demonizing John Boehner and making Slurpee jokes. If the Republicans continue with a humble seriousness, making the White House have to get out from behind empty and patronizing rhetoric, not only will political choices be increasingly clear, but who the leaders are will be too."
- There Better Not Be Any Kumbayas, Michelle Malkin warns. "So, the newly chastened, humbled, introspective, reflective President Obama will hold hyped-up meetings with GOP and Democrat leaders in a few weeks to show his commitment to Common Ground. And the MSM will lap it up as evidence of Obama’s post-election maturity. What a steaming load of you-know-what. Obama has held plenty of make-believe Kumbaya sessions with Republicans — after which, he turned around and rammed his partisan legislative boondoggles and government expansions down our throats anyway."