THE MORNING LINE -- July 20, 2011 at 8:39 AM ET
Can the 'Gang of Six' Bridge the Divide?
President Obama called the "Gang of Six" proposal "a very significant step" on resolving the debt ceiling issue. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.
Compromise has been in short supply in Washington the past few weeks as President Obama and congressional leaders have failed to reach an agreement on reducing the deficit and raising the country's borrowing limit.
Enter the "Gang of Six" proposal Tuesday.
The framework crafted by a bipartisan group of six senators calls for an immediate down payment of $500 billion in savings. Going forward the measure would push lawmakers to cut discretionary spending, reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and overhaul the tax code.
President Obama praised the effort Tuesday afternoon during an unscheduled visit to the White House briefing room, calling it "a very significant step" and "broadly consistent" with the vision he has laid out for congressional leaders.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, meanwhile, did not completely dismiss the effort. "This plan shares many similarities with the framework the speaker discussed with the president, but also appears to fall short in some important areas," a spokesman for Rep. Boehner said.
The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman report that the document was well received by some in the House GOP conference.
"Still, the plan was attracting interest among House Republicans eager for bold action to restrain borrowing. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), a close Boehner ally, said, 'Anything that moves toward the grand bargain that the speaker and the president have been working on is great.'
"And freshman Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-N.H.) called the proposal 'a move in the right direction.'
"'There's tax reform, there's significant spending reduction, and there's also a debt-ceiling increase,' Bass said. 'This is a positive development, and I'm going to be very open-minded about it.'"
The momentum behind the "Gang of Six" plan is likely to build Wednesday as a pair of new polls reveal that most Americans favor compromise when it comes to the debt debate.
According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, overwhelming majorities of Democrats and independents want to see Democratic lawmakers make compromises to reach a consensus. The poll also found that 68 percent of independents want Republicans to do the same.
A Washington Post/ABC News survey, meanwhile, finds that 77 percent of respondents believe Republican leaders are not willing enough to compromise on the budget deficit. The president performs slightly better, with 58 percent saying he's not doing enough to find common ground.
Still, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that nearly 60 percent of Americans back the president's solution for reducing the deficit with a combination of spending cuts, tax increases on the wealthy and health care reforms. By comparison, 36 percent of respondents said they supported a plan put forward by House Republicans that would reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion with only spending cuts.
With the "Gang of Six" proposal more closely resembling the president's vision, you can bet its supporters will be sure to cite such polling to help move the effort forward.
The question now is how much of that work can be woven into a deficit reduction package before lawmakers run-up against the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling.
A FIGHT WORTH HAVING
President Obama's senior political advisers all seem to agree that the 2012 presidential election will be much closer than the 2008 presidential election.
Another truism in Obama world: They are glad the election is next November instead of three-and-a-half months from now.
If 67 percent of voters think the country is on the wrong track on Election Day 2012, as they do today, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, President Obama will not get re-elected.
The president and his team, however, aren't feeling terribly threatened by the GOP field, and he's still beating all of his potential Republican opponents in general election match-ups.
And, yet, the Republican nomination is clearly one worth having.
Mitt Romney remains solidly atop the field with 30 percent of Republican support. That number has been unmoved over the course of the last month. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has moved into second place at 16 percent, which is more than five times the support she had in last month's poll, showing a solid debut on the campaign trail.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the only other possible contender with double-digit support in this poll, but his intentions remain unclear.
While the battle for the anti-Romney slot continues to morph from month to month, the eventual Republican nominee is likely to get a substantial hearing from the American public if the current economic pessimism continues.
Per the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman:
"Only 26% of Americans now say the economy will get better in the next 12 months, down from 29% in June. Thirty-one percent say it will get worse, up from 30% in June when economic optimism collapsed, according to polling data.
"In April, a third of the country expected better times ahead, while just 21% thought the economy was turning for the worse."
When a presidential campaign has to issue a press release with the subject line "Bachmann Responds to Migraine Reports," it's safe to say it's not an ideal on-message day for the candidate.
As she continues to rise in the polls, Rep. Bachmann is coming in for continued scrutiny, and several former staffers seem happy to oblige the press' attempt to apply that scrutiny. That may prove a far more annoying headache than any migraine she may suffer while on the trail.
The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg has all the must-read details about Bachmann's response to the reports that she suffers from debilitating headaches.
Bachmann will be on the trail in Iowa Wednesday as she launches her second statewide TV ad, which is entirely focused on her opposition to raising the debt ceiling.
The text of the new ad:
"I will not vote to increase the debt ceiling. It goes completely contrary to commonsense and how I grew up in Iowa. So here I am in Congress watching these people borrow more money that we don't have so that my children can be further indebted. We have to deal with the economic reality and I have the will and I have the courage to see this through. I'm Michele Bachmann and I approve this message."
Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., lashed out at Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., in a harshly-worded email Tuesday, unhappy with her critique of his support for the House GOP's "Cut, Cap & Balance" proposal.
In the email, West called Wasserman Schultz "vile, unprofessional, and despicable." He also said she was "not a Lady" and suggested she "shut the heck up."
The message came after Wasserman Schultz questioned West's support for the bill during Tuesday's floor debate. [The measure ultimately passed on a mostly party line vote, although it faces an uphill climb in the Senate.]
"The gentleman from Florida. who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries, unbelievable from a Member from South Florida," Rep. Wasserman Schultz argued.
It turns out West actually lives in Wasserman Schultz's district. Based on this exchange, it's a safe bet he'll probably be voting for her opponent in 2012.
POLITICO's Ben Smith first reported on the email and has the full text posted here.
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