POLITICS -- March 31, 2011 at 8:19 AM EDT
Congress, White House Make Progress On Budget, But No Deal
House Speaker John Boehner speaks to reporters after Wednesday's House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol. Photo by Bill Clark/Roll Call.
Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman are in agreement on one key thing: Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.
But that didn't stop Vice President Biden from heading up to Capitol Hill Wednesday night to announce that House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House had agreed to a top line number in cuts. The appropriators have settled on a total of $33 billion in cuts from current spending levels -- or about $73 billion below President Obama's requested FY 2011 budget.
"There is no reason why, with all that's going on in the world and with the state of the economy, we can't reach an agreement to avoid a government shutdown, because the bottom line here is we're working off the same number," Vice President Biden said to reporters Wednesday.
The vice president went on to explain that this is just the beginning. There are still all those policy riders (health care, abortion, etc...) to be hammered out in a final negotiated deal.
That $33 billion in cuts is still nearly $30 billion shy of what House Republicans wanted, which begs the question of whether Speaker Boehner is going to be able to sell compromise to his members, particularly those 87 freshmen who came to Washington on a Tea Party-inspired cost cutting wave.
As Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said, "This is a defining moment."
Also, from Thursday's New York Times:
"'There are a lot of people who know this is small ball and are ready to get to the debt limit increase,' said Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona. 'A lot of us recognized we were not going to end up with $100 billion in the final product.'"
Tea Party activists plan to rally on Capitol Hill Thursday to urge Republicans to hold the line on their pledge to slash $100 billion from President Obama's requested 2011 budget.
It's clear that compromise is needed to avert a government shutdown on April 8. It's just as clear that compromise is an unwelcome concept for the Tea Party activists who helped deliver the GOP majority in the House last November.
It won't only be the activists outside the Capitol who will be heard Thursday. Former House speaker and likely presidential contender Newt Gingrich is expected to meet with House Republican freshmen for a bit of a history lesson on how the budget showdowns of 1994 and 1995 played out.
Last month, in a Washington Post op-ed, Gingrich argued that a government shutdown might not be as politically perilous as many observers have suggested.
Lawmakers are sending President Obama mixed signals when it comes to the U.S. involvement in Libya.
On the one hand you have those demanding that the president take more aggressive steps to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Among them, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sent a letter Wednesday to a group of bi-partisan Senate leaders urging them to bring a measure to the floor that would authorize the use of force in Libya with the stated goal of removing Gadhafi from power.
The text of the letter was obtained by the Weekly Standard.
"As long as Qaddafi remains in power, he will be in a position to terrorize his own people and potentially the rest of the world," Sen. Rubio writes. "The world is a better place when America is willing to lead. And American leadership is required now more than ever."
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol opines that Sen. Rubio's proposal could be "perhaps the boldest move any freshman senator has made" since the new Congress began in January.
"This is a striking bid by a freshman senator to exercise foreign policy leadership, in the face of opposition from some in his own party and reluctance by the Obama administration," Kristol writes. "If he succeeds in galvanizing Republican support for the war and influencing the administration's conduct of it, it will be a remarkable achievement."
Another freshman GOP senator who hasn't shied away from bold action (proposing $500 billion in budget cuts this year, for example) is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. But Paul has taken a different view of the situation in Libya, introducing a sense of the Senate resolution Wednesday to make clear that constitutional authority on matters of war belongs to Congress.
"I am appalled that the Senate has abdicated their responsibility. The Senate has chosen not to act and to allow this power to gravitate to the president," Sen. Paul said Wednesday on the floor. "I think that the precedent, the precedent for allowing a president to continue to act or to initiate war without congressional review, without congressional votes, without the representatives of the people having any say is a real problem."
It appears that the conservative Kentuckian may have found some allies within the liberal, anti-war House Democratic crowd.
POLITICO's Josh Bresnahan reports that five House Democrats -- California Reps. Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Mike Honda and Lynn Woolsey and Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva -- have asked Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to schedule a vote authorizing the use of force in Libya.
"While we firmly believe that a robust debate and up-or-down floor vote should have occurred in advance of U.S. military action in Libya, it is without question that such measures are still urgently required," the lawmakers wrote in a letter that was expected to be sent late Wednesday. "Beyond defending Congressional authority in these matters, these deliberations are essential to ensuring that we as a country fully debate and understand the strategic goals, costs, and long-term consequences of military action in Libya."
While the demands from members of Congress vary, one thing is certain: Lawmakers will want a say in whatever course of action the president takes in Libya from this point forward.
It's probably not that surprising that Arnold Schwarzenegger has given his first post-gubernatorial interview to Entertainment Weekly.
In the interview, he discusses his return to Hollywood and the launch of a new comic book action hero named, "The Governator."
From Entertainment Weekly:
"The word Governator combined two worlds: the world of politics and the movie world. And [this cartoon] brings everything together. It combines the governor, the Terminator, the bodybuilding world, the True Lies..."
"The animated TV show and comic book, being co-developed by no less a superhero authority than Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee won't be out until next year, but this week EW offers an exclusive early look at Arnold's cartoon alter-ego. 'The Governator is going to be a great superhero, but he'll also be Arnold Schwarzenegger,' Lee says of the semi-fictional character. 'We're using all the personal elements of Arnold's life. We're using his wife [Maria Shriver]. We're using his kids. We're using the fact that he used to be governor. Only after he leaves the governor's office, Arnold decides to become a crime fighter and builds a secret high-tech crime-fighting center under his house in Brentwood.'"
After seven tough years grappling with budget crises in Sacramento, emerging as a cartoon superhero is about as good as a landing pad as any ex-governor could hope for.
Schwarzenegger hasn't entirely disappeared from the policy realm, though. He contributed a post on The Atlantic's website Wednesday joining President Obama's energy push for moving the country to a greener economy.
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