Standoff continues over fiscal cliff. Utah doesn't participate in mental illness database. H.W. Bush in intensive care.
Happy Thursday. We're four days away from hitting the fiscal cliff but no closer to a solution that will stave off the tax hikes on all taxpayers and launch a series of significant spending cuts. House GOP leaders say it's up to the Senate to act; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and GOP Leader Mitch McConnell have reportedly not even spoken recently. President Barack Obama returns to Washington tonight to help press for a deal. [WaPost] [NYTimes]
-> Senate officials are becoming more and more pessimistic that a deal can be reached before the deadline. [Politico]
-> Dueling statements were shot out to reporters last night. From Speaker Boehner and other GOP leaders: "The House has acted on two bills which collectively would avert the entire fiscal cliff if enacted. Those bills await action by the Senate."
-- From a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "The Senate has already rejected House Republicans' Tea Party bills, and no further legislation can move through the Senate until Republicans drop their knee-jerk obstruction."
Topping the news: The Trib's Robert Gehrke reports that Utah is one of two dozen states that doesn't regularly contribute to a federal database intended to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. [Trib]
-> Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is warning Congress that the country will hit the debt ceiling on New Years Eve and will have to take drastic measures to keep the federal government operating. [WaPost]
-> Former President George H.W. Bush has been moved to intensive care as his fever rises and medicine doesn't seem to be helping. [Fox]
Tweet of the day: From @AnaMarieCox: "Looking forward to the increase in media diversity that would come with DC's new high-capacity-clips-for-Sunday-show-hosts loophole."
In other news: Utah Policy continues its countdown of the state's top stories with No. 2: How Sen. Orrin Hatch beat back a challenge from the right. [UtahPolicy]
-> Environmentalists say that a new resource management plan for central Utah allows too many areas open to motorized vehicles and oil and gas drilling. [Trib]
-> Pat Bagley notes that sometimes those folks trying to build bridges don't get much respect. [Trib]
-> Alan Fisher of Al Jazeera has published an e-book chronicling his stories from the 2012 campaign covering Mitt Romney. Proceeds from its sales go to journalism charities. [Amazon]
-> The day after Christmas, many shoppers were concerned about what impact the fiscal cliff may have on their wallets next year. [DNews]
Nationally: The armed man with Dick Armey when he attempted a takeover of FreedomWorks was a former Capitol Police officer who is authorized to carry a weapon. [MotherJones]
-> Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has appointed his lieutenant governor to fill Sen. Daniel Inouye's remaining term -- despite Inouyes wishes that another person be appointed to the spot. [StarAdvertiser]
-> A State Department official who resigned in the wake of the Benghazi attack is still working at State just in another job. [FoxNews]
Where are they?