On Capitol Hill, a Budget Faceoff
Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., during Tuesday’s House Budget hearing on President Obama’s proposed fiscal 2012 budget. Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images.
Now that President Obama has unveiled his budget proposal and gone before reporters to defend it, we can start paying attention to the real budget battle in town.
Senate Democrats are definitely not going to pass the $61 billion in cuts for the current fiscal year that House Republicans are likely to send them by week’s end.
Once again, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will play a central role. In addition to keeping his conference on the same page about what to cut from the current budget, he’ll also be the key messenger to House Republicans about what the Senate can and can’t pass.
The Washington Post notes some mixed messaging coming from Senate Republicans.
And there’s this tea leaf from the New York Times’ Carl Hulse:
“Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said Senate Republicans would to try to win at least the same amount of spending reductions backed by the House, though they might aim for different cuts.
‘We’re going to try to achieve the same reduction in total that we hope will be achieved on the House side later this week,’ Mr. McConnell said.”
At the White House Wednesday, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with the Senate Democratic leadership to plot the path forward. The meeting is scheduled on the same day that Senate Democrats announced their embrace of President Obama’s proposed five-year, domestic discretionary, non-security spending freeze in an effort to save $400 billion.
ANSWERING THE CALL
The last time President Obama asked Tim Kaine for a favor, the former Virginia governor ended up as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Time will tell if the president can convince Kaine that his next job should be in the U.S. Senate.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday that Kaine was expected to talk with the president “in the next day or two” before deciding whether to seek the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.
Kaine, 53, told the paper that he is “flattered” by the calls urging him to run, but said he needed to have additional conversations before making a decision.
“That decision could come in the next few days, according to advisers close to Kaine. He is scheduled to appear at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond this weekend, a major Democratic fundraiser that attracts virtually all prominent Democrats in the state,” writes Jim Nolan of the Times-Dispatch.
Kaine won the race for Virginia governor in 2005 over Republican Jerry Kilgore, 52 percent to 46 percent. After a personal appeal from the president, Kaine agreed to head the DNC in 2009 despite having one year left on his four-year term as governor.
Kaine has said previously that he was not interested in running for the Senate, even if Sen. Webb decided not to seek a second term. Virginia Democrats are hoping the president can persuade Kaine to reconsider, believing he represents the party’s best chance at preventing Republican George Allen from reclaiming the seat he lost to Webb in 2006.
If Kaine passes on the race, Democrats in the commonwealth could look to another former DNC chair, Terry McAuliffe, or former congressmen Tom Perriello, Rick Boucher and Glenn Nye.
CHRISTIE GOES NATIONAL
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie steps a bit more directly into the national spotlight Wednesday. The former U.S. attorney has begun his second year as the Garden State governor, and Republicans around the country appear eager to see more of him.
Christie plans to highlight some of the tough choices he’s made in New Jersey in his attempt to rein in government spending. “It’s hard, but it can be dealt with,” Christie told POLITICO’s Mike Allen in an interview this week. “I’m a little mystified as to why they’re not doing it, on either side. Because what we’ve shown in New Jersey is that the public is hungry for this,” he added.
The governor will take his blunt talking style to AEI, a conservative think tank in Washington, and deliver a speech at 1 p.m. ET that will detail some of his very public spats with New Jersey’s teachers union.
Also Wednesday, Gov. Christie was named policy vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
“Since the moment he took office, Governor Christie has been a powerful example of the tremendous impact governors can make in their states and nationwide,” said RGA Chairman Rick Perry. “As the RGA’s Policy Vice Chairman, Governor Christie will be a valuable leader as the RGA continues to strengthen our policy arm.”
Since his victory in November 2009, Gov. Christie’s style and success has captured the attention of many Republicans eager to find their next standard bearer. He has ruled out a 2012 presidential run, but with his stepped up role at the RGA and his desire to garner national attention for a policy speech at AEI, he’s clearly looking to play a role in shaping the GOP heading into the presidential election.
As a senator, Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold made it his mission to combat the influence of corporate money in political campaigns. It doesn’t appear his priorities have changed now that he’s out of office.
Feingold, who lost his re-election bid last fall, will launch an organization Wednesday aimed at keeping the spotlight on the sway corporate dollars have in the political arena. The news was first reported by the Huffington Post.
The effort, dubbed “Progressives United,” is intended to be a grassroots movement to counter the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, which eased restrictions on corporate spending in campaigns.
“The idea of allowing corporations to have unlimited influence on our democracy is very dangerous, obviously,” Feingold told the Huffington Post. “That’s exactly what it does … Things were like this 100 years ago in the United States, with the huge corporate and business power of the oil companies and others. But this time it’s like the Gilded Age on steroids.”
Feingold’s group will also work to elect progressive candidates at the local, state and national levels.
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.