theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director

Monday, December 31, 2012

Republican's cut Taxes, not Democrats.


   All of this talk about the Obama Administrations concerns for the middle class taxpayers is no more than BS.
The reason there is a tax cut at all, is because of the Bush Administration in 2001. 
   Obama and the Democrats are trying to sell the folly that democrats are working for them. Don't be surprised that going over the Cliff could be the best thing that could happen for the nation.
  Let Republicans throw this thing right back to Obama, and when the new Congress resumes, fashion a new tax cut just the way Republicans fashioned the one all taxpayers have benefited from since 2001 making it retro-active 1/1/2013.
  Obama is either a fool, or knows so little about fashioning a fair and balanced bill that he'll say just about anything.
Let him fall on his sword, and quickly taxpayers will remember the BUSH TAX CUTS for the middle class! And still
no deficit cuts!

theodore miraldi

It's back: Texas in 'Super Highway' deal with Spain

Perry signs agreement 3 years after public opposition halted project

byJerome R. Corsi
NEW YORK – Believe it or not, the Trans-Texas Corridor is back.
Very quietly, Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, signed in October a comprehensive development agreement to construct a toll-road redevelopment of Interstate 35 north of downtown Fort Worth.

   TxDOT signed the 50-year deal with NTE Mobility Partners Segments 3 LLC, a U.S.-based wholly-owned subsidiary of Cintra, the Spanish-owned construction company. TxDOT picked Cintra in 2005 to build what some critics called the “NAFTA Super Highway.”
   Chris Lippincot, the former TxDOT information officer who is currently acting as the new public relations man for Cintra in the United States, also announced TxDOT signed a contract in September with Cintra to build a privatized State Highway 130 toll road in San Antonio.
   Perry may never have abandoned his original idea to build what during the presidential administration of George W. Bush was known as the Trans-Texas Corridor project, a 4,000-mile network of privately built and operated toll roads to crisscross the state, with Spanish development company Cintra scheduled to earn the tolls under 50-year leases.
In 2009, Perry scrapped the TTC plan after a series of combative town hall meetings throughout the state showed TxDOT it faced massive taxpayer resistance.
   But now, the plan apparently is being implemented in small chunks, without the fanfare of divulging a statewide blueprint Perry and TxDOT may still have tucked away in their back pockets.
Was TTC ever really dead?
   Operating below the radar of public opinion, Texas currently has $20 billion in roadwork underway through public-private partnerships, according to Ted Houghton, TxDOT chairman, the Texas Tribune reported earlier this month.
Despite Perry’s pledge in 2009 to end the Trans-Texas Corridor project with Cintra, TxDOT has kept the public-private partnership toll road concept alive by proposing smaller projects for the approval of the Texas state legislature.
   Nicholas Rubio, the president of Cintra’s U.S. arm in Austin, told the Texas Tribune that Cintra currently has contracts for three road projects in Texas, consisting of approximately $5 billion in private investment against about $1 billion in public subsidies.
   “You have to recognize, in general, that policymakers in Texas have been ahead of the curve,” Rubio told the Tribune. “The states that have been developing P3s (public-private partnerships) are Texas, Florida, Virginia, and that’s about it.”
   In October, Perry and Rafael del Pino, chairman of Ferrovial, Cintra’s parent company in Spain, attended the grand launch of a 41-mile stretch of State Highway 130 P3 project between Austin and Sequin.
Texas owns the land on which the SH 130 P3 project is built, but a private consortium owned and operated by Cintra is scheduled to build the toll road. It’s to be operated under a 50-year lease, with Cintra taking the lion’s share of the tolls collected over the next 50 years to recover construction costs and to make a profit.
   To make the SH 130 toll road palatable to Texas drivers, the speed limit will be set to 85 miles per hour, the fastest posted limit in the United States.
A look-back to the Bush era
   Quietly but systematically, the Bush administration in conjunction with Perry in Texas advanced the plan to build a huge highway, four football fields wide, through the heart of Texas, parallel to Interstate 35, from the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas, to the Texas border with Oklahoma.
   The Trans-Texas Corridor moved ahead to begin construction following the re-election of Perry in November 2006.
Plans to build TTC-35 were fully disclosed on, a now defunct official TxDOT website.
On March 11, 2005, a “Comprehensive Development Agreement” was signed by TxDOT to build the “TTC-35 High Priority Corridor” parallel to Interstate 35.
   The contracting party was a limited partnership formed between Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., a publically-listed company headquartered in Spain, majority controlled by the Madrid-based Groupo Ferrovial, and a San Antonio-based construction company, Zachry Construction Corporation.
   The Cintra deal meant that once the TTC was completed, anyone who wanted to drive on it would have to pay an investment consortium in Spain for the privilege of driving in Texas.
   Although somewhat incomprehensible to most U.S. citizens, these public-private partnerships involve selling off key U.S. infrastructure projects to foreign entities.
   Granted, the “ownership” rights of projects like TTC-35 would have remained with the state of Texas, yet selling off the leasing rights amounts in the thinking of most U.S. citizens to selling off the highway to foreign interests for the term of the lease.
   Under the terms of the TTC agreements with TxDOT, Cintra would have had the rights to operate TTC-35 for 50 years and to collect all tolls on the road in that period of time.
   The Comprehensive Development Agreement called for Cintra-Zachry to provide private investment of $6 billion “to fully design, construct and operate a four-lane, 316-mile toll road between Dallas and San Antonio for up to 50 years as the initial segment of TTC-35.
   For this, Cintra-Zachry paid the state of Texas $1.2 billion for the long-term right to build and operate the initial segment as a toll facility.
   In April 2006, TxDOT released a 4,000-page Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for what was described as the “Trans-Texas Corridor-25 Oklahoma to Mexico/Gulf Coast Element.”
   The April 2006 EIS made clear that Cintra-Zachry planned to build a 1,200-foot-wide (approximately four football fields wide) complex with 10 lanes of highway – five lanes in each direction, north and south.Three lanes in each direction would be reserved for passenger vehicles and two separate lanes reserved for trucks.
   The EIS design included six rail lines running parallel to the highway, with separate rail lines in each direction for high-speed rail, commuter rail and freight rail.
   Finally, the design called for a 200-foot wide utility corridor that would include pipelines for oil, natural gas, water, telecommunications and data, as well as electricity towers.
   According to the TxDOT Trans-Texas Corridor Plan adopted in June 2002, TxDOT ultimately would build some 4,000 miles of highway-railway-utility super-corridors throughout Texas over the next 50 years, using some 584,000 acres of what is now Texas farm and ranchland, at an estimated cost of $184 billion.
   The TTC plan left little doubt TTC toll-road super-corridors were designed to facilitate international trade, primarily speeding trucks and trains carrying “inter-modal” containers from Mexican ports to destinations in the heartland of the U.S.
The full TTC build-out was designed to move goods through Texas rapidly, bypassing the major cities.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reid: 'Significant distance' between sides in Senate.

  • Reid_standstill.jpg
    Sunday, December 30, 2012: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shown in this C-Span video footage addressing the Senate during an unusual session on Capitol Hill, in Washington. (REUTERS)

Capitol Hill negotiations to avert a fiscal crisis before the New Year’s deadline appeared to falter Sunday in the Senate, as lawmakers struggled to find common ground while bringing the country ever-closer to a 2013 shockwave of tax hikes and spending cuts.
Senators spent the weekend trying to craft a new proposal that they originally claimed could be ready as early as Sunday. But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid reported late in the day that there was significant distance between the two sides, following a tense afternoon during which Vice President Biden was brought in to referee.
Talks now push on, likely into Monday -- but President Obama has already made clear he will press Reid to call a vote on a separate White House plan if nothing is produced by then.
The stumbling block Sunday initially appeared to be a provision in the Republican proposal that would change the way Social Security benefits are calculated -- effectively reducing benefits over time.
But while that drew the ire of Democrats, some Republicans indicated they were willing to drop the provision. Instead, they voiced serious concern about a Democratic push to use new tax revenue for new spending.
“The biggest obstacle we face is that President Obama and Majority Leader Reid continue to insist on new taxes that will be used to fund more new spending, not for meaningful deficit reduction," said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
Reid said late Sunday afternoon the Social Security provision -- knows as chained CPI -- never should have been added to what would now be a basic, final-hour deal that would include taxes increases for top earners and perhaps an extension of unemployment insurance and a promise to negotiate later on spending cuts.
Reid said later that he was gratified that Republicans had taken the provision off the table but added "there's still significant distance between the two sides."
Reid mentioned in passing that he had a new proposal, but a Reid staffer clarified afterward that Democrats have yet to make a formal counter offer.
Should Congress fail to reach a deal, a mix of $600 billion on tax increases and federal cuts in 2013 would start to kick in Jan. 1.
"We can't accept a bad deal just because we're here," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "It's real disturbing we were thrown in a change to Social Security at the last minute.”
Signs that a deal was unraveling surfaced by mid-afternoon when Reid said his party could not make a counteroffer to Republicans. And Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had to call Biden to "jump-start" the negotiations.
The Senate got to work on a compromise plan after House Speaker John Boehner’s proposal in the Republican-controlled House collapsed less than two weeks ago.
Before Sunday, Hill lawmakers and staffers were working behind the scenes to craft a deal that can pass in both chambers.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said earlier Sunday the chances of Congress cutting a deal before the deadline were “exceedingly good.” However, he sounded downcast about the process and the outcome.
“Whatever we accomplish, political victory to the president,” the South Carolina senator said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He's going to get tax rate increases. … And the sad news for the country is, that we have accomplished little in terms of not becoming Greece or getting out of debt.”
If Reid and McConnell cannot reach a deal, Reid purportedly will present Obama’s bare-boned plan of tax increases for families making more than $250,000 annually and extending unemployment insurance.
Obama said on “Meet the Press” that Congress should “first and foremost” prevent taxes increases for the “vast majority” of Americans.
“We have been talking to the Republicans ever since the election was over,” the president said during the interview, taped Saturday. “They have had trouble saying yes to a number of repeated offers.”
Republicans immediately criticized Obama’s remarks.
“Americans elected President Obama to lead, not cast blame,” Boehner said.
McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said Sunday: "While the president was taping those discordant remarks yesterday, Senator McConnell was in the office working to bring Republicans and Democrats together on a solution."
A House Democrat and a House Republican said Saturday they didn’t expect a vote until after the weekend on any proposal to avert the looming fiscal crisis.
Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, and John Yarmuth, D-Ky., both told Fox News they expected the Senate to work on a proposal through Sunday and perhaps into Monday morning before voting, then pass the legislation to the House for a final vote.
Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle vowed late Friday to scramble over the weekend to produce a new bill, on the heels of a high-stakes White House meeting with Obama. At the time, several senior administration officials told Fox News that McConnell, R-Ky., was showing strong signs that he will help seal a deal.
However, they acknowledged he will have a difficult time getting a deal passed in the Republican-controlled House, which has so far rejected any plan that includes allowing tax rates to increase for higher-earning Americans.
The immediate challenge for negotiators, though, will be to craft a plan that does enough to spare most Americans a big hike without doing so much as to complicate the bill's passage. There is a host of expiring provisions next year -- from Medicare rates to doctors to payroll tax cuts -- that some lawmakers hoped to address before the end of the month. The more items added to the bill, the trickier it gets to pass it.
Lawmakers have been hesitant to predict whether Congress will be able to arrive at any solution.
Fox News' Ed Henry, Mike Emanuel, Chad Pergram and Fox Business Network's Rich Edson contributed to this report.

Read more:

Obama, Stop Playing Games, by L Joyce Watkins

L Joyce Watkins Guest Writer
And there is Obama once again with his face on TV...blaming the Republicans. When will he ever have to answer for what he has failed to do. Reid saying that it's all the House Republican's fault & says they are acting like Dictators. I say-the Senate Reid & Obama STOP PLAY GAMES. The Senate has done nothing - but play politics for way to long. 4 years & no budget & they want to blame someone--better look in the mirror. I say that Obama wants to go over the Fiscal Cliff - that way he gets more than he is asking for. If all the taxes go up on everyone then he gets more revenue - and he can blame it on the Republicans. Also, he doesn't have to make any spending cuts. So Obama has lied to the American people once again. Obama On Fiscal Cliff Talks: 'I'm Doing My Part' - would like to know what he thinks his part is. And Obama making his pitch - Give me the tax hikes we want & then we can talk about other know SPENDING CUT? Does he think that we have lost our minds - don't trust him.

The State Department has lied to us once again. They reported that 4 people responsible for some of what happened in Banghazi either resigned or put on leave. Well today we hear that they ALL are still on the payroll. SO JUST ANOTHER LIE FROM OBAMA's ADMINISTRATION.

So Obama has nominated another know LIAR to his cabinet. He proved this by Lying to the American people when he said that the Republicans have to take part of the blame for Benghazi because of budget. Did he miss the day that Lamb gave her sworn testimony when she said that them not giving more security had NOTHING to do with budget. You see he already is a LIAR & let's not forget that he also disgraced this country when he returned his metals from the Vietnam war.

Let's once again look at an issue that we saw during the election. Democrats don't think you need an ID to vote. But to enter the White House you have to have an ID. Now on Obama wanting gun control - well you must pass thru multiple layers of guns when you enter the White house. On the issue of gun control. You will not hear any of those calling for gun control telling you how many people protect them using these same guns. And I know that they will not give up their own security - so why should they think that only the citizens not be allowed to protect themselves. And you have heard NO ONE talk about the mental health issues in this country. When are they going to look at this issue? And this is what Biden said in 2008 when he was running for President. "OBAMA AIN'T TAKING MY SHOT GUNS, SO DON'T TRY THAT MALARKEY, IF HE TRIES TO FOOL WITH MY BERETTA - HE'S GOT A PROBLEM"

Obama says that he promised to increase taxes on those making $250,000 & this is what he plans to matter what is voted on. Well might we just remind Obama that he promised in 2009 to reduce spending & he NEVER did that. So he once again is going to do what ever he wants & no one has anything to say about it. He doesn't care about this country - it is he EGO that is now ruling America. This is what Obama said about raising the debt limit in 2006. To raise the debt limit is admitting to LEADERSHIP FAILURE. Once again he is showing us he has no intention of trying to compromise. Obama has no backbone. Maybe he should ask them if they voted him in to also destroy this country. HE IS DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY. We hired the Congress to do a job & him too for that matter. So for Obama to say he is not going to play games - then why is he playing with the future of our country?

Kerry said that there we failures in what happened in Benghazi but that Republican's in Congress is also to blame for not giving the state department money that they ask for. Well I saw when they were testifying when state department said that it was NEVER about the funding for more security. So KERRY is already playing the blame game. And for the 2nd time Clinton can't testify.. what is she afraid of or what is she hiding. Republican lawmakers, after struggling for months to get answers on the Libya terror attack, ripped into the Obama administration -- with 1 congressman claiming officials "lied to the American people." "This administration has lied to the American people about this tragedy," "The arrogance & dishonesty in all of this is breathtaking. Let's not stonewall this issue & cover up mistakes, which seems to be what is going on today." Obama, in his first post-election press conference called the criticism "outrageous" & told those lawmakers to "go after me." Graham responded: "Mr. President, don't think for one minute I don't hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as commander in chief before, during & after the attack." Obama is arming the "rebels" in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, which just happens to be led by al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. The source of these weapons? Libya. And that is why the attack on the Benghazi consulate needed to be swept under the rug. Arming our enemies? Isn't that treason? Like I have said, Obama is helping the Muslim Brotherhood take over the middle-east & then coming to America. Seems to me that even Democrats are questioning Morsi.

"I'll unite the people of this great country." -- This is the biggest lie of all -- HE IS A FAILURE AS PRESIDENT!

!!! Remember...Obama was a "community organizer" (code word = political operative of the left)...he never solved problems he just stirred things up & then sought gov't funding for his "social justice" causes. Next he got into politics most likely because he figured out that he could be closer to the tax flow stream that way & get power to take whatever money he saw fit...he's moved by ideology not to be a leader-just read Alinsky's "Rules For Radicals" & you will understand the election we just went through - facts don't matter, truth doesn't matter - right-wrong doesn't matter - only winning matters - & to do so you trash & attack your opponent constantly lying, making it up, manipulation is OK. The Obama administration is filled with radical Muslims, anarchists, atheists, communists, and socialists, yet Americans are surprised by the communistic nature of their actions!

Obama says that the people voted for him (including a lot of dead people) & he ran on tax hikes on the job creators - well Obama - you also ran on working with both parties. And you only won by 1% of the vote. So I say let's go off the cliff - call his bluff. He will see just how many wanted what he is offering. No SPENDING CUT - he is spending us to where we will never survive & bet that many didn't vote for that.

Obama treated taxpayer dollars as "gift bags" to give to its top donors, which he called "the Obama recycling program." And do you know how many of these people owe back taxes already. Why don't we ask Obama to have his followers just pay what they already owe - that would probably fund the government for another month

Is this administration going to call racism or sexism every time they are questioned on a matter, it couldn't be their incompetence, lack of transparency & more division & secrecy. Did they forget that Powell & C Rice were both black. It's either blame BUSH or you're a racist or a sexist & we do whatever we damn well please. What happened to united we stand divided we fall, is no one accountable for anything, what happened to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!


And by the way....this is 1 woman that does not support Obama or anything that he stands for! We will get the truth one day & then he will have to pay. My motto continue to be: "I WILL NOT COMPLY!" So I will continue to sing my song until he is gone...this is the song that we will be singing. Please enjoy & start learning the words

Major setback’ in cliff talks

by Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman

Mitch McConnell (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

   Talks to avert the fiscal cliff suffered a “major setback” Sunday, Democrats said, when Republicans demanded significant cuts to Social Security benefits in exchange for President Obama’s request to extend emergency unemployment benefits and cancel deep cuts to the Pentagon and other agency budgets.
   Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has now appealed directly to Vice President Biden to try to break the impasse a last ditch deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, as Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid steps back from talks.
Reid was “shocked and disappointed” by the new GOP demand, said a Democratic aide close to the talks, who described the request as a “poison pill.” While the two sides were still talking, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations, ”we view this as a serious setback. “
   The development came after a long weekend of negotiations during which the two sides had been making progress.
The aide said Democrats had shown flexibility on the major sticking points involving taxes. They had not ruled out maintaining the tax on inherited estates at the current low rate, as Republicans prefer. And they had been open to a deal that would allow taxes to rise on many fewer wealthy households than President Obama had proposed. Republicans were seeking tax increases only on income higher than $400,000 or $500,000 a year, while Obama wanted to set the threshold at $250,000 a year.
   But Obama was pressing for $30 billion in new spending to keep unemployment benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, and he wanted to postpone roughly $100 billion in automatic spending cuts set to hit agency budgets next months. In exchange for those items,
   Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insisted Sunday that Democrats put cuts to Social Security benefits on the table, noting that Obama had offered to do so as part of the big deficit-reduction package he had been negotiating with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio.)
   Most, if not all, of the GOP proposals sought to change the measure of inflation for Social Security, senior Republican aides said, adding that Democrats had not indicated until Sunday that it was a deal-breaker.
   “One of the proposals we made was something called ‘Chained CPI’ which sounds real technical, but basically makes an adjustment in terms of how inflation is calculated for Social Security,” Obama said on the show, which was taped Saturday. “Highly unpopular among Democrats, not something supported by AARP, but in pursuit of strengthening Social Security for the long-term, I’m willing to make those decisions.”
    Applying chained CPI to Social Security would result in smaller annual cost-of-living adjustments. It is adamantly opposed by many Democrats, who say they would only go along with the idea in exchange for a big deficit-reduction deal that included at least $1.2 trillion in new revenue over the next decade. The deal under discussion Sunday would raise no more than $800 billion.
   It was not immediately clear how the setback would affect the talks, but the aide said negotiators were unlikely to make additional progress before Senate leaders are scheduled to brief their respective caucuses around 3 p.m.

McConnell reaches out to Biden, Reid steps back

by Ed O'Keefe

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has appealed directly to Vice President Biden to try to break an impasse in negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” as Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) steps back from talks.
   On the Senate floor just after 2 p.m., McConnell said he had delivered Senate Democrats an offer at 7 p.m. Saturday, and had yet to hear back from them with a potential counter-offer. In hopes of reaching a last-minute deal, McConnell said he had reached out to Biden. “I was here all day yesterday,” McConnell noted as he spoke.
  He added, “There’s no single issue that remains an impossible sticking point. The sticking point appears to be the willingness and interest or frankly the courage to close the deal. I want everyone to know, I’m willing to get this done, but I need a dance partner.”
Reid responded moments later by saying that he was not in a position to provide a counter-offer.
   “The Republican leader has told me and he’s just said that he’s working with the vice president,” Reid said. “And he and the vice president, I wish them well. In the meantime, I will try to come up with something, but at this stage I don’t have a counter-offer to make. Perhaps as the day wears on, I will be able to. But I think the Republican leader has shown absolutely good faith.”

Boehner is giving away the farm

House Speaker John Boehner has already conceded the biggest tax increase in history – $800 billion – in negotiations with Barack Obama and Democrats.

But now he is reportedly offering much more than that if the administration will agree to much deeper cuts to entitlement programs. There are several problems with this that illustrate, again, why it is totally unacceptable for Boehner to remain in the position as the most powerful Republican in Washington.

No. 1: The definition of "cuts" in Washington: Most Americans think of budget cuts as actual money not spent. That is the not the definition Washington uses. Each and every year, spending for entitlements and many other budget line items increases automatically and substantially. When government programs don't grow as much as they would normally grow, that is considered a "cut" in Washington. Under that definition, even when the budget is growing, in Washingtonese, the politicians say they are "cutting" spending.

No. 2: The only cuts that are really meaningful are those proposed and enacted in the current session of Congress. Most of the "cuts" talked about in these negotiations are phantom cuts Congress will try to impose on future Congresses – something they don't have the authority and enforcement power to do. That means to have any real impact, the cuts have to be made between January 2013 and January 2015. You have to front load them. Believe me, Obama and the Democrats will never do that.

No. 3: Boehner needs to remove from the table all tax increases, including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, because they are all destructive to the recovery of the economy. Why? Because these tax increases will not result in the additional revenues expected. John F. Kennedy knew this. Ronald Reagan knew this. That's why they both cut taxes and actually raised revenue. Tax cuts grow the economy and raise revenue. They do not create more revenue for the government.

No. 4: By making these destructive concessions, Boehner is raising the expectations of Democrats, not lowering them. This is always a bad thing when you are dealing with people who actually think government spending drive the economy. That's the essence of Keynesian economics – and the Democrats are all Keynesians.

No. 5: Boehner doesn't realize that he is in the driver's seat and holds in his hands four aces: All spending bills must, under the Constitution, begin in the House he controls; the debt limit cannot be raised without the assent of the House he controls; if the debt limit is not raised, the budget must be cut by $1.2 trillion, which would be the best thing those of us who believe in constitutionally limited government could ever hope to see happen; if there is no agreement with the House on spending, cuts far deeper than anything Boehner will be able to extract from Obama will automatically take place.

In other words, Boehner has to be the worst negotiator in the history of Washington. He is giving away the farm, the barn, the livestock, the house, the seeds, the fertilizer and the tractor every time he opens his mouth.

The best thing House Republicans can do to stop this kind of appeasement and accommodation that is laying the groundwork for a continued recession or worse is to dump Boehner as speaker – and fast.

The best thing you can do to stop this insanity is to push House Republicans to take a tougher stand on borrowing and spending – something they have all the power to do.

There is growing dissatisfaction, I would even say "disgust," with Boehner's antics within the Republican ranks. They need to hear from you now if there is going to be a palace revolt.

That's where the
"No More Red Ink" campaign comes in. There is growing support among tea-party activists in and out of Congress to get rid of Boehner and to freeze the debt limit – denying Obama the power to spend recklessly, immorally, habitually, destructively and without restraint.

Republicans alone have the power to do this. So why make concessions? There is no better deal to be found and no compromise in the cards that tops a freeze in borrowing and the deep cuts that will be triggered by law as a result.

Wishful Thinking and Middle-Class Taxes


Michael Marsicano
   Let’s start with the problem: the budget deficit. Under current policy, the federal government is spending vastly more than it is collecting in tax revenue. And that will be true for the next several decades, thanks largely to the growth in entitlement spending that will occur automatically as the population ages and health care costs increase. As a result, the ratio of government debt to the nation’s gross domestic product is projected to rise, substantially and without an end in sight.
   That can happen for a while, or even a long while, but not forever. At some point, investors at home and abroad will start questioning our ability to service our debts without creating steep inflation. It’s hard to say precisely when this shift in investor sentiment will occur, and even whether it will strike in this president’s term or the next, but when it does, it won’t be pretty. The United States will find itself at the brink of an unprecedented financial crisis.
   Republicans and Democrats agree on the nature of the problem, but they embrace very different solutions. My fear is that both sides are engaged in an excess of wishful thinking, with a dash of mendacity.
   If Republicans had their way, they would focus the entire solution on the spending side. They say that reform of the entitlement programs can reduce their cost. The so-called premium-support plan for Medicare, from Paul D. Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice-presidential candidate, would let older Americans use their health care dollars to buy insurance from competing private plans. (Interestingly, it’s similar to the system envisioned for the nonelderly by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.) The hope is that competition and choice would keep health care costs down without sacrificing quality.
   The premium-support model may well be better than the current Medicare system, but its supporters oversell what it would be likely to accomplish. The primary driver of increasing health care costs over time is new technology, which extends and improves the quality of life, but often at high cost. Unless the pace or nature of medical innovation changes, this trend is likely to continue, regardless of structural reforms we enact for Medicare.
   Democrats, meanwhile, want to preserve the social safety net pretty much as is. They balk at any attempt to reduce this spending, including even modest changes like altering the price index used to calculate Social Security benefits. They focus their attention on raising taxes on the most financially successful Americans, contending that the rich are not paying their “fair share.”
   Fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately, people’s judgment is often based on anecdotes that distort rather than illuminate. The story of the undertaxed Warren Buffett and his overtaxed secretary looms larger in the public’s mind than it should.
Here are some facts, so you can judge for yourself:
   In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, the richest 1 percent of Americans paid 28.9 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (That includes income taxes, both individual and corporate, and payroll taxes.) Members of the middle class, defined as the middle fifth of households, paid 11.1 percent of their income in taxes.
   Some of this difference in tax rates is attributable to temporary tax changes passed in response to the recent recession. But not all. In 2006, before the financial crisis, the top 1 percent paid 30 percent of their income in taxes, compared with 13.9 percent for the middle class.
   These data suggest that the rich are not, as a general matter, shirking their responsibilities to support the federal government. To me, the current tax system looks plenty progressive. Others may disagree.
One point, however, cannot be disputed: Even if President Obama wins all the tax increases on the rich that he is asking for, the long-term fiscal picture will still look grim. Perhaps we can stabilize the situation for a few years just by taxing the rich, but as greater numbers of baby boomers retire and start collecting Social Security and Medicare, more will need to be done.
   Which brings us back to the middle class. When President Obama talks about taxing the rich, he means the top 2 percent of Americans. John A. Boehner, the House speaker, talks about an even thinner slice. But the current and future fiscal imbalances are too large to exempt 98 percent or more of the public from being part of the solution.
   Ultimately, unless we scale back entitlement programs far more than anyone in Washington is now seriously considering, we will have no choice but to increase taxes on a vast majority of Americans. This could involve higher tax rates or an elimination of popular deductions. Or it could mean an entirely new tax, such as a value-added tax or a carbon tax.
   To be sure, the path ahead is not easy. No politician who wants to be re-elected is eager to entertain the possibility of higher taxes on the middle class. But fiscal negotiations might become a bit easier if everyone started by agreeing that the policies we choose must be constrained by the laws of arithmetic.

N. Gregory Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard. He was an adviser to Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Editorial...

 theodore miraldi
 It's about time the public sees the Fiscal Cliff chaos as it really
is. Through all the slim tactics being used by the democrats such as,
"it's Congress that isn't willing to negotiate."
   People need to understand basic
Federal government functions. Congress means both the Senate and the
House of Representatives.
Harry Reid's inane remarks should service any ones
need to understand what is really taking place.
   The problem with the economy
as witnessed by the European Union's woes is that government has an obligation
to submit to the public a budget that does not exceed revenues. This administration
has broken the piggy bank with its excessive spending. This is a problem created by
Obama and his party promising to make discretionary spending cuts for the House's
approval of raising the debt ceiling nearly 2 years ago.
The nefarious methods used
by the Senate hasn't passed a budget in 4 years. Why isn't the public outraged
by Obama and Reid's total lack of leadership on such an important issue? Winning back
the House is more important to the democrats then creating jobs, or acting with any
sense of duty that every public servant must employ.
It's time to stop playing games with
the stability of our nation by dividing, and conquering. This is Obama's economy, now fix it!

Hobby Lobby to defy Obamacare mandate

Facing $1.3M daily fine for refusing to cover 'abortion-inducing drugs'

Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned company that provides hobby, arts and crafts supplies to tens of millions of customers across America, will defy the Obamacare mandate that health insurance for its employees cover “abortion-inducing drugs.”
The confirmation is from a statement released by an attorney, Kyle Duncan, who said in a website statement that, “The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.”

The conflict is the latest firefight in the battle against Obama’s mandate that employers pay for abortifacients no matter their religious beliefs. The administration has argued in many of the dozens of lawsuit that have erupted over the conflict that religious people who own corporations must give up their rights to religious freedom.
Hobby Lobby’s case against the mandate remains pending in a lower court, but the statement from the attorney, who is with the Becket Fund, was released after an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected.
Officials estimate the company could face $1.3 million in daily fines for refusing to pay for abortifacients as Obama demands.
Sonya Sotomayor, who responds to emergency actions to the Supreme Court from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, simply told the company that officials could pay up for the abortifacients or face crushing penalties while its case continues in the lower courts.
Duncan’s statement confirmed those appeal efforts will continue.
“The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time. It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the 10th Circuit,” he wrote.
Sotomayor wrote in her rejection of the appeal for recognition of the Constitution’s requirement for freedom of religion that the company didn’t meet the legal standard for blocking enforcement of the Obama demand.
While the judges at the 10th Circuit had rejected the company’s request, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier handed Christians a major victory against Obama, who previously has supported extreme abortion – to the point of advocating that babies who survive abortions be left to die.
“The government … represented to the court that it would never enforce [the mandate] in its current form against the appellants or those similarly situated as regards contraceptive services,” said an order released by U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
That three-judge panel said the government promised there would be “a different rule for entities like the appellants … and we take that as a binding commitment.”
“The government further represented that it would publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the new rule in the first quarter of 2013 and would issue a new Final Rule before August 2013.”
The judges continued: “We take the government at its word and will hold it to it.”
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Christian business owners, religious colleges and others. Several judges, including those at one appellate bench, have ordered the government not to enforce the mandate for now.
The decision from the federal appeals court in Washington comes in a case brought by Wheaton College of Illinois and Belmont Abbey College.
The lower courts had dismissed the cases as premature. Now the appeals judges have reinstated the cases and have ordered the Obama administration to report back every 60 days, starting in February, until its promise for a new rule that protects the colleges’ religious freedoms is in effect.
“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Duncan. “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.”
The judges said that based “expressly upon the understanding that the government will not deviate from its considered representations to this court, we conclude that the cases are not fit for review at this time because ‘if we do not decide [the merits of appellants' challenge to the current rule] now, we may never need to.’”
“The colleges argue that the government’s promise not to enforce the mandate still leaves them exposed to liability from ERISA claims brought by employees and other beneficiaries,” they continued.
“Although the parties disagree over the likelihood of that happening, we see nothing about the bringing of those claims that alters our conclusion that the petitioners’ lawsuits should be held in abeyance pending the new rule that the government has promised will be issued soon.”
The judges said the government must file “regular status reports … every 60 days from the date of this order.”
Duncan called the decision a win not just for Belmont Abbey and Wheaton, but for all religious non-profits challenging the mandate.
“The government has now been forced to promise that it will never enforce the current mandate against religious employers like Wheaton and Belmont Abbey and a federal appellate court will hold the government to its word,” he said.
But other victories have been earned by corporations seeking protection from a presidential mandate to pay for killing the unborn. Another previous decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set the tone for the developing arguments.
That court agreed with three U.S. district judges and blocked the enforcement of the Obamacare mandate that would have forced a Missouri company to pay for health insurance, including abortifacients in violation of the religious beliefs of the owners.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice, the order put on hold the White House-promoted requirement in the case involving Frank R. O’Brien and O’Brien Industrial Holdings, a St. Louis, Mo., company that runs a number of businesses that explore, mine and process refractory and ceramic raw materials.
“By granting our motion, the appeals court blocks the implementation of the HHS mandate and clears the way for our lawsuit to continue – a significant victory for our client,” said Francis Manion, senior counsel of the ACLJ. “The order sends a message that the religious beliefs of employers must be respected by the government. We have argued from the beginning that employers like Frank O’Brien must be able to operate their business in a manner consistent with their moral values, not the values of the government. We look forward to this case moving forward and securing the constitutional rights of our client.”
Understand Planned Parenthood’s agenda. Get “Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom”
In October, a federal district court judge granted Obama’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The ACLJ immediately filed an appeal, and the higher court today granted the motion for an injunction.
The lawsuit, launched in March 2012, marked the first legal challenge to the HHS mandate from a private business owner and his company, the ACLJ said.
O’Brien, a Catholic, told the ACLJ his religious beliefs provide the framework for the operation of his businesses, which employ 87 people. The company website states the mission “is to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society.”
Meanwhile, district judges in Colorado, Michigan and Chicago have issued similar rulings to protect companies in those locations while they fight what they describe as a blatant violation of the owners’ religious rights.
Earlier in the O’Brien case, the government determined that the mandate is a “burden” on religious rights.
“Indeed, defendant [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius herself has publicly acknowledged that the mandate raises religious concerns,” said a court filing from the ACLJ.
“In a press release issued on Jan. 20, 2012, announcing the finalization of the mandate and the temporary safe harbor period for nonprofit entities that object to contraceptive services, defendant Sebelius opined that the temporary reprieve ‘strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventative services.’
“Subsequently, in a press release issued on July 31, 2012, Sebelius stated that ‘the Obama administration will continue to work with all employers to give them the flexibility and resources they need to implement the health care law in a way that protects women’s health while making common-sense accommodations for values like religious liberty.’”
The legal brief, filed in U.S. district court for the Eastern District of Missouri, continued, “The defendants cannot make a straight-faced argument in this litigation that the mandate does not impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religious beliefs. Indeed, the defendants have postponed for a year the application of regulations that purportedly advance a compelling governmental interest solely because of the burden the defendants themselves recognize that these regulation impose on the exercise of religion.
“Clearly, nothing but a burden of a ‘substantial’ nature could justify such a postponement,” the brief said.
Dozens of Christian organizations around the country, and a number of companies, have launched legal actions over the mandate, which also now may be heading back to the U.S. Supreme Court for review after the justices ordered an appellate court to consider religious rights claims by Liberty University.
Leaders of a number of religious-advocacy groups are warning of the Obamacare contraception mandate consequences for business owners of faith:
  • Larry Cirignano, president of Faithful Catholic Citizens: “Give up your religion or go bankrupt. This is not a mandate; it is an ultimatum. Buy insurance and kill babies or go bankrupt fighting us. Not all of us can afford lawyers to fight this ‘mandate.’”
  • Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate: “Aug. 1 will be remembered as the day our most cherished liberty was thrown in a government dumpster and hauled away. A day when family owned small businesses were forced to abandon their religious beliefs to provide products and services for free. And if they don’t, they will be taxed and fined at a time when job creators are struggling with enough costs and bureaucratic red-tape at every level of government just to stay in business. While the courts have provided a reprieve for one family business in Colorado, the government will never be able to repair the broken conscience of thousands of others until this mandate is removed.”
  • Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica: “August 1st is a day that will live in infamy for the First Amendment and the fundamental freedoms and rights we as a people have enjoyed since the founding of our nation. The HHS mandate imposed on the American people is the beginning of the end of freedom as America has known it and loved it. August 1st marks the day when many family owned and operated businesses lose their rights to exercise their faith in their daily lives. The government has told them – either comply with this mandate in violation of your faith and do what we tell you, or you will pay crippling faith fines to the federal government. With the stroke of a pen, the Obama administration has shredded the First Amendment and the Constitution right before our eyes.”
  • Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute: “The Obama administration’s assault on religious liberty is taking root … Failure to comply with the mandate will result in penalties that could cost business millions of dollars. The administration clearly did not reach a much-vaunted ‘accommodation’ with business owners who strongly oppose the mandate and believe it is a clear violation of their constitutional protection of religious liberty. The HHS mandate forces business owners to choose between following their religious beliefs or obedience to the federal government. The Obama administration clearly believes the government is supreme and that individuals and businesses must bow to its dictates or suffer severe consequences. We know that Obamacare is wrong for America. The HHS anti-conscience mandate is clear evidence of why the law violates the most fundamental principles upon which our country is founded.”
  • Gary Marx, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition: “Confidence in the system and hope for religious liberty was mildly restored when a federal district judge issued a temporary injunction blocking Barack Obama’s health-care mandate from compelling a business to provide insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortion-inducing drugs. This is certainly a victory, but the fact that it only applies to one company means the federal government is still going to force millions of Americans to choose between having health insurance or their conscience and faith. With an administration intent on suppressing religious liberty, we can expect a historic turnout of voters of faith show up in November.”
  • Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America: “The only solution that has been provided to the majority of Americans is to stand up and fight for their religious rights by refusing to comply or battling in court. … We must remember the wise words of Thomas Jefferson, ‘All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.’ To force religious groups to deny their deeply held convictions is not called balance; it is called tyranny.”
  • Jeanne Monahan, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity: “Today as a result of this initial implementation of the HHS mandate, the relationship between the separation of church and state is critically changed. Americans can no longer follow their consciences or religious dictates on issues as critical as abortion-inducing drugs. Organizations such as Wheaton College, or businesses such as Weingartz Supply of Ann Arbor, Mich.,will be forced to violate their consciences. On this sad day Americans have no ‘choice’ in this matter.”
  • David Stevens, MD and CEO of the Christian Medical Association: “What will stop this administration, with its radical pro-abortion agenda, from further undermining conscience rights and pursuing policies that effectively force out of medicine physicians with life-honoring convictions? Who will keep government panels from effectively denying physicians and patients choice about what are the most effective and appropriate medicines, surgeries and treatments? We call on Congress to turn back this law’s assault on our freedoms and restore American values and constitutional principles in health care.”
  • Paul E. Rondeau, executive director of American Life League: “History tragically teaches us that if our government can abolish one constitutional right, then all constitutional rights are put in jeopardy. This path sets a dangerous and foolish precedent that First Amendments rights such as freedom of speech, association, freedom of the press and the rights to assemble and petition the government may be just as easily curtailed in the future. We call on all citizens to tell their elected representatives that this erosion of rights must not stand.”
  • Kristin Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America: “Today marks the beginning of the end of religious and conscience rights in America. As an employer, I am forced to make a false choice between providing a vital service to my employees and violating my conscience and values. The abortion-pill mandate is an egregious attack upon my rights, as well as the rights of all people of values and faith in America.”

Friday, December 28, 2012

Russia’s ban on U.S. adoptions devastates American families

By Will Englund and Tara Bahrampour

President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill Friday that bars Americans from adopting Russian children, provoking anguish among U.S. families that have been waiting months, and in some cases years, to complete the process.
The legislation caps a year of increasing Russian hostility toward the United States, stoked by Putin but taken up with unexpected gusto by members of parliament. A series of measures has taken aim at what is perceived to be — or characterized as — American interference in Russian concerns, from political organizing to the defense of human rights. The adoption bill is seen as retaliation against a U.S. law that targets corrupt Russian officials.
 Passage of the legislation is a benchmark in the deterioration of Russian-American relations, and unlike some of the earlier, symbolic moves, it has real consequences. Over the past 20 years, 60,000 Russians have been adopted by Americans, and officials said the measure would block the pending adoptions of 46 children.
Kim Summers of Freehold, N.J., was just weeks away from bringing home her adopted son, Preston, when the legislation hit. She and her husband adopted him on Dec. 12 and returned to the United States three days later to complete a required 30-day waiting period.
“As far as we knew until this morning, he was coming home with us,” Summers said. “What’s going on has absolutely nothing to do with parenting a child. My son was looked at by 22 Russian families before I had the chance to even fathom adopting him, and none of them wanted him.”
Senior members of the Russian cabinet had warned against the bill, saying that it punishes orphans more than it does American politicians and that it looks like a defense of corruption while unavoidably drawing attention to the sorry state of Russian orphanages.
But Putin disregarded the warnings, seemingly pulled along by the enthusiasm for the legislation in both houses of parliament.
Washington reacted sharply to the new law Friday. The State Department issued a statement saying it deeply regrets “the Russian government’s politically motivated decision.” It also expressed hope that adoptive parents and children “who have already met and bonded” would be allowed to complete adoption procedures that were initiated before the law took effect.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Putin’s action “shameful and appalling” and said the law’s effects on thousands of Russian children would be “cruel and malicious.” He said in a statement: “I often wonder how much lower the Russian government under President Putin can stoop. But to punish innocent babies and children over a political disagreement between our governments is a new low, even for Putin’s Russia.”
The issues at the heart of the U.S.-Russian relationship in the coming year are critical to the United States, primarily the continuing transit of goods into and out of Afghanistan, and Russian cooperation on Iran. So far, both topics have been kept mostly out of the fray.
For several weeks, Putin appeared to be putting the brakes on the adoption ban. He raised questions about it at his annual news conference this month, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Science and Education Minister Dmitry Livanov, among others, called it ill-advised. But on Thursday, Putin said, “I have not seen any reason why I should not sign it.”

Opinion: What Chicago's 500th Murder Means

By Edward McClelland

Opinion: What Chicago's 500th Murder Means

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for a change in current gun laws this month in the wake of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Chicago experienced its 500th murder of the year on Thursday night, when a 40-year-old man was shot to death in the Austin neighborhood. It was only the second time in the last ten years the city has reached that mark. In 2008, 513 people were murdered.
However, this year’s violence has attracted unprecedented national attention to Chicago. In October, Diane Sawyer held a town hall meeting at St. Sabina’s Church, hosted by Father Michael Pfleger. The killings have earned the city the nickname “Chiraq” and have been inspired an emerging Chicago rap form known as drill.
The city’s murders have also made it a case study in the debate on gun control. Second Amendment defenders point to the fact that Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation as proof that gun control is not only ineffective, but causes more violence.
“The reality is that the only people being denied guns under Obama's scenario are law-abiding citizens,” wrote, in an article titled “Obama‘s gun control not working out in Chicago.” “And this means criminals are beginning to understand they can carry out their misdeeds with a impunity, as the citizens they accost or attack have no weapons with which to fight back. As a result, Chicago is on track to have more than 500 gun-related deaths for this year alone.”
Probably the most read article in the history of Ward Room is a piece entitled “The Deadliest Global City,” which pointed out that Chicago has a higher murder rate than any other Alpha world city. It’s been popular with conservatives who believe gun control is responsible for the murders.
Whatever is causing it, as we move into 2013, the most important issue facing this city and this state is not education, or the pension crisis, or the parking meters -- it’s murder.


McConnell and Reid Called in to Come up With Fiscal Cliff Deal

It's All Down to Them


Senate leaders are working to craft legislation by Sunday that averts the year-end "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts, but many details needed to be worked out after a crucial meeting with President Barack Obama on Friday.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell, termed the meeting "constructive" and "positive" and said they would keep working on trying to find a solution over the weekend.

However shortly afterwards Reid said he would be sending a bill to the Senate calling for an end to the Bush-era tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000, a figure that Republicans have repeatedly said they will not accept.

"At President Obama's request, I am readying a bill for a vote by Monday that will prevent a tax hike on middle-class families making up to $250,000, and that will include the additional, critical provisions outlined by President Obama," Reid said in a statement.

"In the next 24 hours, I look forward to hearing any good-faith proposals Senator McConnell has for altering this bill."

After adjourning on Friday, Reid he would probably not call the Senate back into session until about 1 p.m. on Sunday to give leaders time to hash out a deal.

On the Senate floor, McConnell said, "We are engaged in discussions, the majority leader and myself and the White House, in the hopes that we can come forward as early as Sunday and have a recommendation that I can make to my conference and the majority leader can make to his conference."

"So we'll be working hard to try to see if we can get there in the next 24 hours. So I'm hopeful and optimistic," he added.

An aide to House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said it was agreed at the White House meeting that the Senate should act first.

"The speaker told the president that if the Senate amends the House-passed legislation and sends back a plan, the House will consider it — either by accepting or amending," the aide said.

However, Reid said it would be difficult to craft a solution that can win passage in both the House and Senate, adding that it involves "big numbers."

"Whatever we come up with is going to be imperfect," Reid said. "Some people aren't going to like it. Some people will like it less. But that's where we are and I feel confident that we have an obligation to do the best we can."

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

White House: No Obama proposal to Congress

By Dana Bash and Tom Cohen

The fiscal cliff and your wallet

  • NEW: The House will come back to Washington on Sunday
  • Senate leader Reid questions whether enough time remains for an agreement
  • Without a deal, taxes go up and spending gets slashed in the new year
  • An impasse over taxes remains the major obstacle
Washington (CNN) -- White House officials said Thursday that President Barack Obama will not send a fiscal cliff measure to Capitol Hill, while Republicans insisted they were expecting more details on the president's proposal.
An aide to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the senator expected further details soon on what Obama and Democrats were proposing.
A Senate Democratic leadership member also said that more details would be provided. Both sources spoke to CNN on condition of not being identified further.
However, two White House officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president was not sending a proposal to Congress.
Such parsing of words and interpretations showed the high political sensitivity over how the fiscal cliff negotiations are being portrayed to the public.
It was not immediately clear whether the confusion represented a misinterpretation of outreach or discussions between Obama and Senate Republicans.
McConnell has called for the president or Senate Democrats to make the first move in the political standoff over how to prevent or soften automatic tax hikes and spending cuts of the fiscal cliff set to take effect in the new year -- just five days away.
Economists warn the full impact of the fiscal cliff could spark another recession. In signs of the potential effect, stocks were lower Thursday on increasing doubts about an agreement, and the Consumer Confidence Index sank.
Last week, Obama called for a scaled-back plan that would prevent tax increases on middle-class Americans and extend unemployment benefits.
McConnell told Obama in a telephone conversation Wednesday that he must see details of a proposal before he can figure out any process for a Senate vote.
However, a senior Democratic Senate source told CNN on Thursday that it was McConnell who must first work things out with House Speaker John Boehner on how legislation will proceed before Democrats provide more details of their plan.
Hopes for a so-called grand bargain that would address the nation's chronic federal deficits and debt appeared dashed for now, leaving it to the White House and legislators to work out a less ambitious agreement.
The principal dispute continues to be over taxes, specifically the demand by Obama and Democrats to extend most of the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush while allowing higher rates of the 1990s to return on top income brackets.
Obama campaigned for reelection on keeping the current lower tax rates on family income up to $250,000, which he argues would protect 98% of Americans and 97% of small businesses from rates that increase on income above that level.
Republicans oppose any kind of increase in tax rates, and Boehner suffered the political indignity last week of offering a compromise -- a $1 million threshold for the higher rates to kick in -- that his colleagues refused to support because it raised taxes and had no chance of passing the Senate.
Last Friday, Obama proposed a scaled-back agreement that included his call for extending tax cuts on households with incomes under $250,000, as well as an extension of unemployment insurance.
After a Christmas holiday, Obama returned to Washington from Hawaii and the U.S. Senate reconvened Thursday as the fiscal cliff deadline approached. On the House side, leaders announced the chamber would reconvene on Sunday and could stay in session through January 2, before a new Congress gets sworn in on January 3.
Fiscal cliff fears jolt consumer confidence
With House Republicans unable to resolve the impasse, the focus shifted to the Democratic majority in the Senate to come up with a way forward that could pass the House and get signed into law by Obama.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada expressed doubt Thursday that enough time remained to reach an agreement, especially with the House at more than 48 hours from coming back.
"I don't know, time-wise, how it can happen now," he said as he opened the Senate's first session back from the holiday.
The White House said Obama spoke with all four congressional leaders before leaving Hawaii on Wednesday. Spokesmen for Republican leaders of the House and Senate made clear, though, that the president or Senate Democrats needed to offer a proposal to start further negotiations.
fiscal cliff deal fixes a self-inflicted problem
Possible scenarios include a short-term deal now, setting up continued negotiations next year when Obama and a new Congress that convenes in January confront a need to raise the federal debt ceiling and approve further spending to keep the government funded.
Another possibility would be a short-term deal reached after January 1 that would change the political calculus by having legislators vote for cutting the higher tax rates from the fiscal cliff -- a much more palatable exercise than the current debate over allowing top rates to increase.
Opinion: Art that calls the fiscal cliff's bluff
Retiring Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio told CNN on Thursday that such an outcome would be entirely due to politics.
"Nobody is willing to pull the trigger" on an agreement because "everybody wants to play the blame game," he said. "This blame game is about to put us over the edge."
Will fiscal cliff hurt the economy?
Reid lambasted Boehner in his remarks Thursday, saying the speaker wanted to wait until after the new House chooses him as speaker on January 3 before proceeding with a compromise that would pass the chamber today.
Boehner was "more concerned about his speakership than putting the country on firm financial footing," Reid charged.
In response, Boehner's spokesman said Reid should stop talking and instead take up legislation passed by the House that would avert the fiscal cliff.
"The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not," said the spokesman, Michael Steel.
Reid and Democrats reject the GOP proposals, which would extend all the Bush tax cuts and revamp the spending cuts of the fiscal cliff, as insufficient steps that would shift too much of the burden of deficit reduction on the middle class.
Instead, Reid called on Boehner to allow a vote on a Senate-passed measure that would implement Obama's plan to extend tax cuts to the $250,000 threshold.
Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-New York, acknowledged Wednesday that a deal will have to include some form of higher rates on top income brackets, but she said her party would fight to make it as minimal as possible.
Hayworth also made clear to CNN that a limited agreement was the most to expect for now, saying: "I don't think we're going to get the big plan in the next six days."
A statement Wednesday by Boehner's leadership team said the Senate must act first on proposals already passed by the House but rejected by Senate leaders and Obama.
"If the Senate will not approve and send them to the president to be signed into law in their current form, they must be amended and returned to the House," the leadership statement said. "Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended, or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments. The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act."
Obama and Democrats have leverage, based on the president's reelection last month and Democratic gains in the House and Senate in the new Congress. In addition, polls consistently show majority support for Obama's position on taxes.
Americans less optimistic of a fiscal cliff deal
The Gallup daily tracking poll released Wednesday showed 54% of respondents support Obama's handling of the fiscal cliff negotiations, compared with 26% who approve of Boehner's performance.
A senior Senate Democratic source told CNN on Wednesday that Reid has made clear in private conversations that he will need assurance that any plan can pass both the Senate and the House before he will bring it up.
"It is to nobody's advantage to have a failed Senate vote at this point," the source said on condition of not being identified. "This will be the last train we will have, and there is no sense in it leaving the station before we have assurance it will get through."
Remaining questions include whether enough Republicans will support a compromise acceptable to Democrats, and whether McConnell and Senate Republicans will allow a simple majority vote to take up and pass any proposal, or stick to the filibuster level of 60%.
"We believe very strongly a reasonable package can get majorities in both houses," a senior White House official said. "The only thing that would prevent it is if Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner don't cooperate."
Some Senate Democrats have discussed holding off on bringing up a proposal until the final days of 2012 to increase pressure on Republicans to support avoiding higher taxes on everyone due to the fiscal cliff
While the focus now is on a possible agreement in coming days or weeks, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist told CNN this week that the nation should gird for long-range battle.
"It's four years of a fight. It's not one week of a fight," said Norquist, who has threatened to mount primary challenges against Republicans who violate a pledge they signed at his behest against ever voting for a tax increase.
He predicted "a regular fight" when Congress needs to authorize more government spending and raise the federal debt ceiling in coming months.
"There the Republicans have a lot of clout because they can say we'll let you run the government for the next month, but you've got to make these reforms," he said.
On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner informed Congress that the government would reach its borrowing limit at the end of the year -- in five days' time -- but could take steps to create what he called "headroom" for two months or so.
Geithner: U.S. to hit debt ceiling on Monday
However, Geithner said uncertainty about the fiscal cliff negotiations and possible changes to the deficit situation made it difficult to predict precisely how long the government's steps to ease the situation would last.
The GOP opposition to any kind of tax rate increase has stalled deficit negotiations for two years and led to unusual political drama, such as McConnell recently filibustering a proposal he introduced and last week's rebuff by House Republicans of the alternative tax plan pushed by Boehner, their leader.
Reid and other Senate Democrats say House Republicans must accept that an agreement will require support from legislators in both parties, rather than a GOP majority in the House pushing through a measure on its own.
He insisted that a Senate-passed plan with Obama's $250,000 threshold would pass the House if Boehner would allow a vote. However, the Senate proposal is held up on constitutional grounds, because legislation that increases revenue must originate in the House.
Some House Republicans have said they would join Democrats in supporting the president's proposal in hopes of moving past the volatile issue to focus on the spending cuts and entitlement reforms they seek.
The possibility of a fiscal cliff was set in motion over the past two years as a way to force action on mounting government debt.
Now, legislators risk looking politically cynical by seeking to weaken the measures enacted to try to force them to confront tough questions regarding deficit reduction, such as reforms to popular entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The two sides seemingly had made progress early last week on forging a $2 trillion deficit reduction deal that included new revenue sought by Obama and spending cuts and entitlement changes desired by Boehner.
Obama's latest offer set $400,000 as the income threshold for a tax rate increase, up from his original plan of $250,000. It also included a new formula for the consumer price index applied to some entitlement benefits, much to the chagrin of liberals.
Called chained CPI, the new formula includes assumptions on consumer habits in response to rising prices, such as seeking cheaper alternatives, and would result in smaller benefit increases in future years.
Statistics supplied by opponents say the change would mean Social Security recipients would get $6,000 less in benefits over the first 15 years of chained CPI.
Liberal groups sought to mount a pressure campaign against including the chained CPI after news emerged this week that Obama was willing to include it, calling the plan a betrayal of senior citizens who had contributed throughout their lives for their benefits.
For his part, Boehner conceded on increased tax revenue, including higher rates on top income brackets and eliminating some deductions and loopholes.

CNNMoney's Jose Pagliery and CNN's Brianna Keilar, Jessica Yellin, Deirdre Walsh, Ted Barrett and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.