TODAY | November 26, 2012
>>> back at work with one big issue staring them in the face. how to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff? if they do not reach a deal your taxes could rise and sharp spending cuts would go into effect as well possibly triggering a recession. chuck todd is nbc's political director and chief white house correspondent. chuck, good morning to you.
>> good morning, savannah.
>> the goal here is to get a deal that reduces the deficit, and the battle lines have been pretty clear right now. the president campaigned rolling back the tax breaks for the highest earnings and republicans argued spending cuts are the way to get the deficit under control. are we starting to see a softening of those positions on both sides?
>> reporter: here's what there's agreement on. both sides, both parties agree that the wealthiest have to pay more, and the question now and the sticking point at this stage is how do you go about making the wealthiest pay more? do you do it by raising the tax rates ? that's what president obama wants to do. wants to raise the tax freights 35% where they are now up to where they were during the clinton years at 39% what. republicans are arguing is you don't have to do that. you can get all of the money or some of the money that you want by getting rid of loopholes so doing full-fledged tacts reform at next year but don't raise the tax rates at all and somehow get rid of the loopholes. the white house says, hey, that math doesn't work.
>> let me pick up on that because we've seen a few republicans peeling off from a pledge they signed to grover norquist who, of course, is an anti-tax lobbyist works has been very powerful among conservatives. is that a significant move when you start seeing senators like lindsey grak, sacxby chambliss saying i'm not going to stick to the deal.
>> reporter: i'll be waiting to see if house republicans do it. all the areas where republicans are softening. it's senate republicans . if the deal could be cut between senate republicans and the white house , we wouldn't be talking about this, wouldn't have a segment because the fiscal cliff wouldn't be an issue. the house republicans have to worry about primaries and that's the problem for the white house and frankly for house speaker john boehner . he may want to cut a deal but may not have the votes because these guys might be on a primary suicide mission , some of these house republicans , if they side with raising tax rates . if they raise taxes they will lose the primary and there's no general election , they don't have to where he about voters.
>> are democrats signaling where they may be willing to compromise?
>> reporter: president has been willing to talk about social security and medicare and put entitlements on the table. the problem the president has is many parts of his base, including some of those house democrats that he might need in some sort of forged compromise, they are not crazy about doing that. we won. the mandate is to raise taxes. there was no mandate from the voters to tinker with social security and tinker with medicare, but at some point the president's going to put that on the table, and the question will his base let him do it?
>> let me switch gears a bit. i want to ask you about senator john mccain . he, of course, has been very critical about the potential nomination of u.n. ambassador susan rice to be secretary of state, something that hasn't happened yet. he appeared to strike a more conciliatory tone over the weekend. i'm going to play two statements for you, john mccain a few weeks ago and john mccain yesterday and ask you about it on the other side.
>> we will do whatever is necessary to block the nomination that's within our power as far as susan rice is concerned.
>> i think she deserved the ability and the opportunity to explain herself and her position, just as she said.
>> chuck, very quickly, is this a very significant change?
>> reporter: it is and it tells you something that a lot of people have told me presidents get their secretary of states. the question is how much pain is it going to come with? i'm told it's probably not this week, probably early next week that the president finally decides to name a secretary of state, just down to two, susan rice or john kerry , but hearing that might make the white house feel better. i think the president's gut has been if he were to choose, force him to choose, i think he's leaning susan rice .
>> chuck todd with all the headlines from washington in morning.