POLITICS -- February 7, 2011 at 8:36 AM ET
Obama Faces the Opposition in Speech to Chamber of Commerce
Updated 1:30 p.m. ET
Originally posted 9 a.m. ET
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Public Citizen via Flickr.
It will be a very short trip across Lafayette Park Monday morning as President Obama makes his way to speak at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But don't let the physical distance fool you.
At 11:30 a.m. ET, President Obama will address the group that successfully spent north of $50 million to help win Republican control of the House of Representatives and upend his legislative agenda.
"First and foremost is the compelling need to strengthen our free enterprise economy, create jobs, and put America back to work. Our focus is finding common ground to ensure America's greatness in the 21st century. America works best when we work together," Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue is expected to say, per Mike Allen's POLITICO Playbook.
The president's speech to the chamber is part of the administration's weeks-long outreach to the business community in an effort to shed the anti-business label that has, at times, stymied the Obama White House over the course of the first two years.
President Obama's address Monday before his ardent political opponents comes one day after he headed into the proverbial lion's den when he sat with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly for a live pre-Super Bowl interview.
Egypt and health care dominated most of O'Reilly's rapid fire questions. A couple of times in the course of the interview, O'Reilly insisted that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had a lot of negative information about the United States in his possession, but President Obama never took the bait.
Instead, he stuck to his script that Mubarak must begin a transition to a new more free and fair Egypt now.
"Egypt is not going to go back to what it was," the president said.
On health care, President Obama said he thinks the federal judge in Florida who ruled the health care reform law unconstitutional got it wrong, but once again called on Republicans and Democrats to work together to perfect the law instead of replaying the political fights surrounding it over the course of the last two years.
Perhaps most interesting was President Obama's refusal to get ruffled. He constantly used his broad smile to try to disarm O'Reilly's more pointed questions. At one point, O'Reilly asked the president how he feels about the people that hate him.
"The people who dislike you don't know you. The folks who hate you, don't know you. What they hate is whatever fun-house mirror of you is out there," the president replied without flashing discomfort about the question.
You can watch the entire interview here: LINK
The president's budget will officially be released next week, but the debate over how to solve the country's deficit problem is already going strong.
The director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, was among those who joined the fray over the weekend, detailing some of what the administration intends to offer in a New York Times editorial Sunday titled "The Easy Cuts Are Behind Us."
Lew indicated the president's upcoming budget would include reductions to programs the administration supports, such as community action organizations, environmental cleanup of the Great Lakes and housing and infrastructure development in low and moderate income neighborhoods.
According to Lew, those proposed cuts add up to less than $800 million, which will hardly put a dent in the estimated $1.5 trillion dollar deficit this year. Lew acknowledged that fact, referring to the three items he mentioned as "only a small fraction of the scores of cuts the president has to choose."
Lew also touted the five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending that the president called for in his State of the Union address last month. It would save a projected $400 billion over the next decade.
Republicans, meanwhile, have demanded the government return to 2008, pre-stimulus, pre-bailout spending levels.
Former Republican senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, one of the the co-chairs of the president's bipartisan fiscal commission, said Sunday that neither proposal would have a serious impact. "If you don't do something with the ones that are on automatic pilot, like Medicare, then it crushes out all the discretionary spending, it just wipes it out," Simpson said on CNN's "State of the Union."
As is often the case, Simpson had some colorful language for lawmakers who he said lacked genuine solutions to match the severity of the country's fiscal problems. "If you hear a politician get up and say, I know we can get this done. We're going to get rid of all earmarks, all waste, fraud and abuse, all foreign aid, Air Force One, all congressional pensions. That's just sparrow belch in the midst of the typhoon. That's about six, eight, ten percent of where we are."
There will certainly be no shortage of bold rhetoric in the coming weeks as the president and congressional Republicans put forward their budget plans for the coming year, but what remains very much in doubt is whether bold solutions will follow.
DANIELS' HEALTH CARE PRESCRIPTION
The will he or won't he questions continue to swirl around Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as he considers making a run for the Republican presidential nomination this year.
In a well-placed Wall Street Journal op-ed, Daniels outlines his offer to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on how to free the states from what he sees as a burdensome set of requirements in the federal health care reform law.
His list of demands includes:
- We are given the flexibility to decide which insurers are permitted to offer their products.
- All the law's expensive benefit mandates are waived, so that our citizens aren't forced to buy benefits they don't need and have a range of choice that includes more affordable plans.
- Our state is reimbursed the true, full cost of the administrative burden to be imposed upon us, based on the estimate of an auditor independent of HHS.
"Most fundamentally, the system we are proposing requires Washington to abandon most of the command-and-control aspects of the law as written. It steers away from nanny-state paternalism by assuming, recognizing and reinforcing the dignity of all our citizens and their right to make health care's highly personal decisions for themselves," writes Daniels.
Clearly, the governor and potential presidential candidate wanted to lay down his marker on what will be one of the key issues in the political debate surrounding Campaign 2012. However, Gov. Daniels is a wonkish guy and his timing is also likely to have significant impact at the upcoming gathering of the nation's governors in Washington, D.C., at the end of the month.
So as much as we'd all love to read the tea leaves from his op-ed, don't rule out Daniels' immediate desire to impact the implementation of the health care law in the states as the impetus for the piece.
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