Yes, this actually happened:
On Monday night's program, after first telling co-host Anderson Cooper "I'm going to tickle your sack," she shortly after midnight actually kissed his crotch [...]:
It’s hard to understand why Kathy Griffin keeps getting invited back to co-host a live New Year’s Eve broadcast when this is not the first time she’s behaved this way.
Griffin's past New Year's Eve antics have included taking her shirt off, dropping the f-bomb and shouting a heckler down. This year, she dropped to her knees and went straight for Anderson Cooper's crotch. […]
Monday night was their sixth year ringing in the New Year together on CNN. Cooper, who is already pretty used to Griffin's New Year's Eve antics, was already giggling nervously ten minutes into the show. That's when Griffin told him, "I'm going to tickle your sac." She continued, "Do you have a sac?"
CNN—the most trusted name in news? Yeah, right.
The Senate voted early Tuesday morning 89-8 in favor of the scaled-down bipartisan package that would halt historic tax hikes for many Americans and postpone automatic spending cuts for two months. The bill will now go to the House, which is expected to be back in session at noon today.
The outlines of the deal Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden worked out included raising tax rates for individuals making more than $400,000 and families with incomes more than $450,000, and extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. It also continued a number of programs from Mr. Obama’s 2009 stimulus law, including tax credits for college tuition and for green-energy programs.
The deal included no net spending cuts, however, which left conservative Republicans complaining. Meanwhile, liberal Democrats balked at not holding firm on tax increases for families making more than $250,000 — a stance on which Mr. Obama campaigned.
Regardless of their income, all taxpayers will still see at least some tax increases with the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, which was worth about $1,000 to the average family in 2012. […]
The deal on the table late Monday included a patch to prevent millions of taxpayers from being hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax, and also included an extension of full payments to doctors treating Medicare patients.
The tax rate agreement would see the top marginal rate rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent — the rate during the Clinton years — for individuals with incomes more than $400,000 and for households with incomes more than $450,000.
The bill is a far cry from ideal. Earlier in the day, Sen. Mike Lee said that what needs to be kept in mind is that even if a deal happens “we will be leaving intact 99 percent of a dysfunctional system – 99 percent of a tax code that’s unstable - that produces an inconsistent revenue stream and that’s gotten us $16 trillion in debt and has been producing trillion dollar annual deficits.” Lee voted against the bill, as did Republican Sens. Rand Paul, Richard Shelby, Chuck Grassley and Marco Rubio.
The question now is whether the bill can pass the House. Breitbart points out that the deal reached “cuts only $15 billion in spending while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts,” according to the CBO. Commenting on the lopsided ratio, one House Republican said, “I can’t imagine a ratio such as that warming our fiscal hearts.”
It’s official. The United States will go over the cliff tonight—at least for a little while. The House announced they will not hold a late-night vote even if legislation cleared the Senate. Although it’s not confirmed, some sources are pointing to Obama’s ‘attitude and criticism of Congress’ during the press conference/pep rally he held this afternoon as reason for the adjournment.
Earlier today, Sen. McConnell said that he reached an agreement with Vice President Biden on the tax portion of the deal, which calls for individuals making $400,000 and families making $450,000 to see their rates rise to Clinton-era levels. This will put the estate tax rate at 40 percent for inheritances over $5 million. McConnell said that a broader agreement was “very, very close.”
In addition to the issue of tax rates, National Journal outlines what else is in the tentative deal:
· No change on capital gains and dividend tax rates for individuals making less than $400,000. Taxes on capital gains and dividends would be held at their current levels of 15 percent for taxpayers making less than $400,000. They would rise to 20 percent for those above that threshold. For families, the threshold is $450,000.
· PEP and Pease rules for individuals making over $250,000. The Personal Exemption Phaseout and “Pease” deduction cap would reduce exemptions and limit itemized deductions on taxpayers making over $250,000 or families earning over $300,000.
· 40 percent estate tax. The estate tax is set to rise permanently to 40 percent from its current 35 percent level, with the first $5 million in assets exempted. Democrats had earlier sought a higher increase to 45 percent and a lower exemption of $3.5 million.
· Patching the AMT, permanently. The alternative minimum tax was levied to ensure the wealthiest Americans paid a fair share of taxes. It is not indexed for inflation but is usually “patched” annually to prevent an increasingly large swath of middle-class Americans from being caught in its net. The AMT wasn't patched in 2012 but would be patched permanently as part of a fiscal cliff deal.
· Five-year extension of certain tax credits. Specifically, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which can be claimed for college-related expenses; the Child Tax Credit; and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-to-moderate income working Americans.
· Senate Finance Committee tax extender package. The Senate Finance Committee passed a package in August that tackled a variety of routinely expiring tax provisions known as extenders. That package might now pass as part of the broader cliff deal.
· One year extension of fifty-percent bonus depreciation. The provision lets businesses deduct the cost of certain equipment.
Spending cuts, however, will be postponed:
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told GOP colleagues that negotiators have agreed to postpone the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester for two months. […]
McCain said the $24-billion cost of delaying the sequester would be offset by other cuts so as not to add to the deficit, but those details remain unresolved.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he thinks it’s “highly likely” that the Senate will hold a vote this evening.
“This is one of those things that could well go into the early morning by the time it goes to a vote. But I don’t think there’s a thought at present about trying to make this happen tomorrow. I think they’re attempting to get the legislative language in order and vote on it tonight, you know, 1, 2, 3, 4 in the morning, whatever.”
So, should you freak out about going over the ‘cliff’ tonight? Molly Ball over at The Atlantic puts it all in perspective:
Calm down. Yes, the House was headed home late Monday and would not vote on any prospective deal before the dawn of the New Year. Yes, that technically means we'll miss the December 31 deadline and "go over" the "fiscal cliff." But what does that mean? It means tax rates have gone up on the income taxes you don't have to file until April 2014; it means the government is supposed to start gradually implementing some cuts to programs. Both of these automatically-triggered events can be fixed retroactively by a vote in the next couple of days with no material effects. The biggest immediate danger of going over the "cliff" -- which the anti-cliff-alarmists have always preferred to call a "slope" or a "curb" for exactly this reason -- is that it would freak out the stock market. But the markets are closed until Wednesday, and investors aren't likely to panic as long as it's clear a deal is in the works.
Happy New Year!
If you watched Obama’s comments this afternoon you would not be remiss to think it was actually a campaign event. Obama came out, flanked by ‘middle class Americans’ or what Twitchy aptly referred to as a “human rainbow,” and played the blame game all while reminding
Americans Republicans that he won the election. Oh, and the “middle class taxpayers” repeatedly applauding when Obama took shots at Congress for its inaction thus far really helped set the pep rally vibe, too. GOP lawmakers weren’t thrilled with the comments, either:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said President Obama likely lost votes for the deficit-reduction deal because of the “pep rally” he chose to hold Monday.
“I just listened to the president and my heart is still pounding,” Corker said on the floor Monday minutes after Obama called on Congress to finish work on a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.
“I was very disappointed to hear what the president had to say in front of a prep rally," he said. “I know the president has fun heckling Congress, but I think he probably lost a number of votes with this.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he couldn't understand why Obama would mock Republicans in the midst of delicate talks.
"What did the president of the United States just do?" McCain said. "He sent a message of confrontation to Republicans."
"I guess I have to wonder — and I think the American people have to wonder — whether the president really wants this issue resolved, or is it to his short-term political benefit to go over the cliff?"
Campaigner in chief, indeed.
As The Hill’s post goes on to mention, “several Republican operatives” took to Twitter to ask why Obama “would hit the GOP as Vice President Biden and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell appear to be closing in on a deal to prevent looming tax hikes and spending cuts set to begin in January.” The talks between Biden and McConnell have resulted in key tax provisions as they continue working on a compromise. National Journal outlines these provisions:
·Income tax rates would go up to Clinton-era rates on individuals making more than $400,000 and families making more than $450,000. The Bush-era tax cuts would be made permanent for everyone under that threshold. Those below the threshold would see a permanent 15 percent capital gains and dividends rate, and those above the rate would pay 20 percent.
·The estate tax would be exempted on the first $5 million, and assets over that amount would be taxed at 40 percent. Current law exempts the first $5 million and taxes the rest at 35 percent, but that expires today and reverts to 55 percent tax rates on assets more than $1 million on Jan. 1.
·A permanent "patch" for the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was meant to make sure millionaires paid their fair share of taxes, but which has increasingly ensnared the middle class.
·A five-year extension on the American Opportunity Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Earned Income Tax Credit.
·Democrats and Republicans are still working on how to prevent across-the-board spending cuts that begin next year.
It’s the second report to come out about the Benghazi terrorist attack that left four Americans dead and not surprisingly, the second report to be highly critical of the State Department. The Senate homeland security committee’s bipartisan report, ‘Flashing Red,’ obtained by Fox News, outlines 10 key findings about the attack.
A scathing Senate committee report on the Benghazi terrorist attack faults the State Department for failing to adequately respond to mounting security threats in the lead-up to the assault. The report says the facility was woefully under-protected at a time when the region, according to a top department official, was "flashing red" -- yet security was not improved, and nobody recommended the compound be shut down. […]
The Senate report noted the "large amount of evidence" in the months preceding the attack that Benghazi was "increasingly dangerous and unstable," with an attack on Americans becoming "much more likely."
"While this intelligence was effectively shared within the Intelligence Community (IC) and with key officials at the Department of State, it did not lead to a commensurate increase in security at Benghazi nor to a decision to close the American mission there, either of which would have been more than justified by the intelligence presented," the report said.
The report said it was "widely understood" that the Libyan government could not adequately protect U.S. personnel, yet the State Department did not move to fill the "security gap." The Senate committee said "no security standards" applied to the Benghazi post -- there were "few meaningful physical barriers," according to the report.
Despite the increasing threat in the region and the apparent vulnerability of the compound, the Senate committee said it appears nobody recommended closing the facility or even temporarily shutting it down. "That was a grievous mistake," Lieberman said.
The investigation turned up details that show "a shocking irresponsibility to protect American diplomatic personnel in Benghazi," Lieberman added.
And what did Obama have to say about accountability in the Benghazi attack? In an interview with NBC’s David Gregory on Sunday he said, “there was just some sloppiness, not intentional, in terms of how we secure embassies in areas where you essentially don’t have government that have a lot of capacity to protect those embassies.”
The new year is fast approaching and there’s still “significant distance between the two sides,” according to Harry Reid. However, he also said there’s still time to reach an agreement. The House Rules Committee approved a rule that would allow the chamber to immediately consider a Senate deal—although, with less than 24 hours left to strike a deal, time is quickly running out. The Senate will reconvene at 11am.
Where negotiations stand (via The Hill):
Leaders in the upper chamber narrowed their differences Sunday as Republicans agreed to drop a demand to curb cost-of-living increases to entitlement benefits, while Democrats showed flexibility on taxes.
Yet after months of talks on ways to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of 2012, House and Senate lawmakers find themselves approaching the new year without a bill to present to their members.
Significant differences remain over two key parts of a deal — the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester and the estate tax. […]
Reid has proposed raising the threshold for extending current tax rates on individual income to $360,000 and on family income to $450,000, according to Democratic senators who received a briefing from him. Republicans have countered with a proposal to raise the threshold for individuals to $450,000 and families to $550,000.
But the estate tax and the sequester, an automatic $109 billion cut to domestic and defense spending next year, remain outstanding issues.
Republicans want to extend the estate tax at its current 35 percent rate and exempt inheritances below $5 million.
Both sides want to halt the sequester but cannot agree how to offset its cost.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced a bill on Sunday that would “soften the landing” if America goes over the ‘cliff’.
Manchin said his bill, the Cliff Alleviation at the Last Minute Act, — the CALM Act — would slowly phase in the tax rate increases and allow the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to propose substitute cuts to replace sequestration. […]
The bill would phase January’s tax rate increases over the course of three years. In addition, it would grant OMB “the flexibility to recommend what agencies and accounts to cut,” he said.
So how did the last-ditch fiscal cliff meeting go this afternoon? Not great. President Obama again put forth the scaled-back version of the proposal he pitched last week.
A source familiar with the meeting told CNBC that Obama was not making a new offer; just laying out what he thinks can pass the House and Senate. That includes keeping the tax cut for those making up to $250,000 and an extension of unemployment insurance for 2 million people. He will then ask the participants what they are willing to support, and if they don't have a counterproposal that can pass the House and the Senate he will ask for an up or down vote.
President Obama held a brief press conference after the talks, calling the meeting “good and constructive” and that he’s “modestly optimistic” that an agreement may still be able to be reached in time. One of the points he highlighted during the presser was that he’ll let Sens. Reid and McConnell try to reach a deal on the income threshold for tax hikes but if they don’t reach an agreement, the president said he will “urge Senator Reid to bring to the floor a basic package for an up or down vote – one that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends the vital lifeline of unemployment insurance to 2 million Americans looking for a job and lays the groundwork for future cooperation on more economic growth and deficit reduction.”
Senate leaders are in last-minute bipartisan ‘cliff’ talks with the White House this evening.
As the country is on the verge of going over the “fiscal cliff,” President Obama signed an executive order to end the pay freeze on federal employees. Translation: some federal workers—ranging from the vice president to the Supreme Court and members of Congress—will be getting a raise. Via The Weekly Standard:
According to disclosure forms, Biden made a cool $225,521 last year. After the pay increase, he'll now make $231,900 per year.
Members of Congress, from the House and Senate, also will receive a little bump, as their annual salary will go from $174,000 to 174,900. Leadership in Congress, including the speaker of the House, will likewise get an increase.
Here's the list of new wages, as attached to President Obama's executive order:
"A new executive order has been issued providing for a new pay schedule beginning 'on the first day of the first applicable pay period beginning after March 27, 2013,'" reports FedSmith.com. "The pay raise will generally be about 1/2 of 1%."
It doesn’t matter if the raise is $1 dollar or several thousand dollars, or if only some will actually see a pay increase—it’s the principle and timing of this move that’s troubling to say the least, especially given the fact that 88 percent of taxpayers will begin to see less of their paycheck if/when America goes over the “cliff” in a few short days.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will return to the State Department next week after three weeks of recovery from a stomach virus and a related concussion, The Cable has confirmed.
Clinton's ongoing recovery will still prevent her from flying abroad, but will allow plans to move forward for her to testify in open hearing on the Sept. 11 attack on Benghazi, testimony that she was unable to give -- as per her doctor's orders -- on Dec. 20. Her return to a public schedule could also end the weeks of conspiracy theorizing and wild speculation about whether or not she was faking or misrepresenting her illness to avoid testifying.
"The secretary continues to recuperate at home. She had long planned to take this holiday week off, so she had no work schedule. She looks forward to getting back to the office next week and resuming her schedule," Clinton aide Philippe Reines told The Cable.
Sec. Clinton may have gotten out of testifying last week because of the concussion she sustained after fainting, but that doesn’t mean she’s in the clear on Benghazi just yet. The Washington Examiner has the details:
Republican senators will refuse to confirm Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as Secretary of State until the nation’s current top diplomat, Hillary Clinton, testifies about her handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack.
“The Senate is expected to take up Kerry’s nomination in early January, but multiple Republican senators have already said they won’t agree to a vote on Kerry’s nomination until Clinton testifies about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi,” The Cable’s Josh Rogin notes.
Although Clinton vowed to adopt the 29 recommendations in the Accountability Review Board’s report, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said the document still leaves many unanswered questions, which the secretary “will need to personally address.”
For instance, Clinton was “the first cabinet-level official to acknowledge that terrorists played a role in the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi,” as the article states, yet prior to that she was perfectly content to denounce the First Amendment by placing blame squarely on the anti-Islam YouTube video. The State Department even went so far as to spend $70,000 in taxpayer funds to buy ads on Pakistani television stations featuring Clinton and Obama denouncing the film.
Of course, there are a host of other questions lawmakers want to know regarding what happened leading up to and during the attack that left four Americans dead, which the report failed to cover. If Clinton was willing to take responsibility (even if it was 35 days after the attack), it’s time for her to come out of hiding and testify about her handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack.