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HUFFPOST HILL - America's Latest Manufactured Crisis Almost Over

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The NRA stopped cupping its ears and yelling LA LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA and released a statement about Friday's deadly shooting in Connecticut. Barack Obama's Michigan electoral votes almost weren't counted, probably because they were unionized. And David Petraeus' mistress won't be charged with cyberstalking. Time will tell if Daily News headline writers sue the Justice Department for damages. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, December 18th, 2012:

FISCAL CLIFF: AGREEMENT ON CAPITAL GAINS AND DIVIDENDS NEAR - Fiscal cliff negotiators are coalescing around an agreement on high capital gains and dividends tax rates, according to sources involved with the talks, both Democratic and one Republican. The higher rates would apply to income over a certain level, with the White House pushing for $250,000 as the threshold and Republicans putting it at a million. The new rates would be set at 20 percent for both dividends and capital gains. Health care reform will add another 3.8 percent on top of the 20, giving the Treasury a substantial boost in revenue. The New York Times' Paul Krugman reported earlier Tuesday that he had been told by a senior administration official that the White House expected movement on capital gains and dividends rates. HuffPost

"Negotiating with Barack Obama," your latest political meme tumblr.

HELL NO YOU CAN'T - A small bipartisan group of senators opposed to broad filibuster reform are closing in on a compromise package that would derail the building momentum toward a rules change in January. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has been the most vocal internal opponent of substantial Senate rules reform, and Democratic sources say he is now finalizing talks with the bipartisan group of senators. On Tuesday, Levin told HuffPost that he was optimistic an agreement would soon be reached and that he was opposed to the "talking filibuster," the most far-reaching reform on the table. "There's a lot of conversations going on. There's a lot of things I'm involved in. There's a lot of things that I think are going to happen -- that I'm optimistic are going to happen. I don't want to be more specific," he said. [HuffPost

IF X --> Y, SENATE EDITION - Dianne Feinstein said today she expects to chair the Judiciary Committee in the 113th Congress. "Keep tuned," she told reporters today on the Hill, "I think it is [going to become open], and I think it'll happen." With Daniel Inouye's passing, Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy is expected to step down and take over the Appropriations Committee, leaving Feinstein, the second-highest ranking Democrat on the panel, in charge. Feinstein will hand over leadership of the Intelligence Committee to Barbara Mikulski, who is outranked by Ron Wyden (but who has opted to become chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee upon Jeff Bingaman's retirement). Depending on whom you ask, Wyden is keeping his gig on the energy committee because Oregon has a lot of public land in it, or because he's not for putting black hoods on Arab guys and shipping them to Qatar and would cause a stir atop the intelligence committee. Got it? Congratulations, you just scored a 165 on the LSATs. That's AU Law, at least.

@KellyO: The late @Daniel_Inouye to be given rare honor. He will "lie in repose" in US Capitol Thurs. Memorial in DC Friday. Burial Sunday in Hawai'i

NRA BREAKS SILENCE: RELEASES STATEMENT, ANNOUNCES PRESS CONFERENCE - We're not sure what patch of foliage the organization's leaders were all camouflaged-up in for the last few days, but they've finally spoken: "National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters -- and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again. The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21."

At least Michigan's electors didn't mess up the oath of office? John Celock: "Documents presented to electors at Monday's meeting of the Michigan Electoral College in Lansing spelled President Barack Obama's first name as Barak. The documents were prepared by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R) for the ceremonial meeting, which officially elected Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the Macomb Daily reported. State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Witmer (D-Lansing), the presiding officer of the Michigan Electoral College, noticed the typo." [HuffPost]

CHAINED CPI AND YOUR MOM - Obama and Boehner love chained CPI, which will make Social Security cost-of-living adjustments less generous. If the chained CPI had been in place all along, today an 88-year-old who'd started drawing benefits at age 62 would receive 7.32 percent less in benefits this year, according to the group. For Carrie Pete, a retiree in Silver Spring, Md., that would mean something like $1,080 less in annual benefits, and a cumulative reduction of roughly $15,000. Her husband died in 1990, leaving her with Social Security survivors' benefits earned from his lifelong career as a pressman in a corrugation plant. It's not enough to cover the full cost of her apartment, so her kids help. HuffPost asked Pete's daughter how things would be different under a theoretical scenario in which her mother had received smaller Social Security cost-of-living adjustments over the past 20 years. "It would have a significant impact on her, because right now she's getting assistance from her children to cover this," Coleman said during an interview at Springvale. "Clearly, if there was a reduction in that amount, it's going to have quite an impact on her, as well as on us, because our contributions would have to be greater." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Democrats held their second press conference at the Capitol to demand a reauthorization of long-term unemployment insurance. A nonprofit called the Philadelphia Unemployment Project brought dozens of laid-off workers, three of whom spoke movingly about their experience. "Unemployment benefits have allowed me to pay my mortgage and my car payment, auto insurance and utilities," Tracy Mulvehill said. "But I just found out that my [Emergency Unemployment Compensation] is scheduled to be cut off at the end of this month. If I am still out of work by New Year's Day I will lose my benefits and that will cause me to lose my home and everything I've worked so hard for all my life." Merry Christmas, from Congress.

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BOEHNER GOES TO PLAN B - Plan B is something we thought Republicans weren't crazy about, but it just goes to show how a couple bottles of merlot a few cigs, "The Best of Air Supply" and Eric Cantor's seductive sad eyes can set the mood and change minds. Mike McAuliff and Sabrina Siddiqui: "Democrats from the White House and beyond panned the new 'Plan B' proposal of House Speaker John Boehner to avoid at least the tax portion of the fiscal cliff, but anti-tax GOP House members sounded cautiously optimistic about the idea of passing a measure that allows tax hikes only on income over $1 million. Boehner said on Tuesday that he is working up the proposal in the event that he and President Barack Obama are unable to come to a broader agreement by the looming Dec. 31 deadline, after which automatic spending cuts and across-the-board tax increases will kick in. The Ohio Republican referred to his Plan B approach as a 'backup plan,' though he reiterated that he is continuing negotiations with the president on averting the so-called fiscal cliff...While Democrats dismissed the proposal -- and some predicted privately that it would fail -- they would be faced with a difficult choice should the package pass. Many of them, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), have voted in the past to allow taxes to rise only on millionaires." [HuffPost]

LEAHY SWORN IN AS SENATE PRO TEMPORE - Which is to say, he was sworn into his new life of being trailed by the secret service and having to appoint a pro tem for every day the Senate is in session (oddly, some of those days can last more than 24 hours). In the cataclysmic event that President Obama, Joe Biden and John Boehner cannot serve as president, we hope he will lead our nation through the zombie apocalypse. WaPo: "Vice President Biden administered the oath of office to Leahy from the Senate rostrum at 11:33 a.m., with Sens. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) standing behind him. At least 28 senators, seated at their desks, were present for the ceremony and stood to applaud once Leahy took the oath. Leahy shook the hands of Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) as he returned to his seat. Per tradition, the Senate opened Tuesday morning with a black drape and a dozen white roses placed over Inouye's desk, which is located behind Reid's desk and podium and next to desks occupied by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Leahy." [WaPo]

WHITE HOUSE RENEWS SUPPORT FOR ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN - Oh right, he does support that! AP: "The White House says President Barack Obama is "actively supportive" of efforts on Capitol Hill to reinstate an assault weapons ban. Obama has long backed the ban, but has failed to push for it throughout his first term. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., plans to introduce legislation to reinstate the ban early next year. White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama would also support legislation to close the gun show 'loophole,' which allows people to buy guns from private dealers without background checks." [AP]

Rick Perry wants municipalities to decide whether we arm our librarians with Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistols. Melissa Jeltsen: "Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) warned against a 'knee-jerk' reaction from the federal government on gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, and expressed support for allowing teachers to carry guns on campus. Speaking at a Tea Party event in North Richland Hills, Texas, on Monday night, Perry reflected on the Connecticut elementary school massacre that left 20 first-graders dead, calling it 'evil,' according to NBC 5...In response to a reporter question about allowing guns on campus, Perry clarified that he thought local school districts should make their own policies. 'Local control,' he said." [HuffPost]

Do we really have to make this Sesame Street episode now? Jason Linkins: "You know what the dumbest thing I've read since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is? It's the same thing everyone else is calling the dumbest thing they've read, because it is so obvious in its overwhelming dumbness: Megan McArdle's "Hey Kids, Go Tackle The Man Who Is Spraying Bullets Everywhere" piece for The Daily Beast...Just for the record, I would like to encourage people not to gang-rush shooters, and to instead run and hide, and any parent who would "drill it into young people" to do otherwise should be thrown in a pit." [HuffPost]

This interview with NBC's Richard Engel and his crew, recently released after a five-day kidnapping by Syrian government militiamen, reminds us how totally worthless we are.

AMERICA'S COOLEST MAYOR LEANING TOWARD SENATE - Cory Booker, Newark's mayor and the guy who totally doesn't care that you borrowed his Junot Diaz books and Radiohead CDs but never returned them because he's just that chill, is leaning toward running for Senate and not for governor. Politico: "Cory Booker likely won't challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2014 but instead launch a bid for a U.S. Senate seat, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Citing three sources familiar with the matter, the Journal said Booker is eying the seat currently held by longtime Sen. Frank Lautenberg, an 88-year-old Democrat. The Journal reports the Newark mayor has been in discussions about launching an exploratory committee this week, and a Booker political operative did not comment for the story." [Politico]

Imported from Detroit (and straight to a cushy VC job in 2015?): "Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's (R) popularity has dropped precipitously since he signed right-to-work legislation, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.Snyder's approval rating has sunk to 38 percent, down a net 28 points since November, PPP found. 'Just last month when we took a first look at the 2014 landscape we talked about how much Rick Snyder had improved his popularity during his second year in office and how he led a generic Democrat for reelection by 6 points, even as Barack Obama won the state comfortably,' PPP's Tom Jensen writes. 'Last week he threw all that out the window.'" [HuffPost's Ariel Edwards-Levy]

DETROIT (AP) -- Gov. Snyder vetoes gun legislation allowing concealed weapons in churches, schools, daycares .

PETRAEUS' MISTRESS WILL NOT BE CHARGED BECAUSE THE NEWS CYCLE GOODS ARE EXHAUSTED - NPR: "Paula Broadwell, whose affair with retired Gen. David Petraeus led to his resignation from the post of CIA director, will not face federal charges related to the alleged cyberstalking of another woman, according to a letter sent by the Justice Department to Broadwell's attorney. Robert Muse, Broadwell's lawyer, has released the letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow that says, in part: 'As the target of our investigation, we believe it is appropriate to advise your client that our office has determined that no federal charges will be brought in the Middle District of Florida relating to alleged acts of cyber-stalking.'" [NPR]

JOHN BOLTON: CONCUSSION TRUTHER - The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Earth's most appropriately mustached man, believes Hillary Clinton lied about her recent concussion to avoid testifying to Congress about the Benghazi attacks. On Fox News, Bolton described the use of "diplomatic" when foreign service officers "don't want to go to a meeting or a conference, or an event." Clearly recalling that time Clinton threw herself into traffic to avoid meeting with Stephen Harper, Bolton was wowed by Clinton's gall. "And this is a diplomatic illness to beat the band," he said, though adding that he hoped Clinton wasn't didn't actually suffer a "serious" injury.Thanks, Ambassador Bolton! [HuffPost's Nick Wing]

Hiccup: Yesterday we said that Joe Manchin once ran a campaign ad in which he shot a copy of the Affordable Care Act. Not quite: Manchin shot cap-and-trade legislation. Our apologies to both you and the legislation.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Pomeranian puppies are small, soda-sized.

COMFORT FOOD

- "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" has interesting similarities to "Homeland." [http://chzb.gr/UssRIy]

- What happens when you throw boiling water out your window and into sub-zero temperatures (kind of like the smoke trail from a rocket). [http://bit.ly/TWFwTy]

- Spider can't fight the infectious rhythm of the rumba. [http://huff.to/T5Qzwr]

- Whoever was tasked with putting up lights in public areas in Brighton, England needs a vacation and/or some therapy. [http://chzb.gr/SCLI7U]

- Why are people always looking to the horizon in their memoir cover photographs? [http://huff.to/U6yYUX]

- A YouTube looks back at 2012 with some of its biggest stars and ... of course ... "Gangam Style." [http://bit.ly/ZfOqDl]

TWITTERAMA

@LOLGOP: The NRA is so desperate to not to attract attention on social media it's even considering moving to Google+.

@aterkel: Sen. Lamar Alexander blames "violent video games and movies" for the Newtown shooting bit.ly/Yhvi6A ... Waiting for the lawmaker to blame VH1 and Pop-Up Video...

@pourmecoffee: Everyone should be armed AND costumed. Not just a cape either, something really good.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

5:30 pm: Deck the halls with boughs of lobby, fa la la la la la la la la. The NRSC hosts its annual holiday party. Remember, if you're caught under the mistletoe, you have to either write a check or kiss Jerry Moran. [NRSC, 425 2nd Street NE]

6:30 pm: Mitch McConnell blows off steam with some Koch. The Senate minority leader continues to take out Ashley Judd insurance with a fundraiser co-hosted by Koch Industries PAC. [R B Murphy & Associates, 220 E Street NE]

TOMORROW

12:00 pm: Dean Heller hosts a debt retirement event to pay down his dues from his Senate campaign. Heller won't say whether he got his debt a gold watch. Ba-dum-tish. [Bistro Bis, 15 E Street NW]

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