Debt Ceiling Negotiations Enter Round 3
President Obama walks from a Marine One helicopter back to the White House on Sunday. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.
The debt and deficit negotiations are now aimed at accomplishing two goals. The first goal for all sides sitting around the table is to get a deal in place by Aug. 2 to avoid any negative impact on the economy. The second goal, which is being pursued concurrently, is to emerge from the talks as the political winner.
The latter clearly complicates the former.
The eight Republican and Democratic congressional leaders will be back in the Cabinet Room in the White House Monday afternoon with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for their third such meeting over the last five days.
The president continues to apply pressure on House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans by pushing for a “grand bargain” that includes entitlement reforms many in his own party oppose. With the president willing to put Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on the chopping block, it begs the question of where Rep. Boehner is willing to compromise.
But math is a stubborn thing. Boehner clearly came to the conclusion this weekend that he simply cannot pass a deal through his conference that includes any tax increases.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., appeared to preview a bit of what we can expect to hear from President Obama at his 11 a.m. ET news conference by telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos how the president framed his argument Sunday night.
“I disagree with that,” Sen. Durbin said when asked about the chances for a deal hovering around 50 percent. “I can tell you the president is determined to keep us there and make certain that we’re focused on the fact the decisions we make in that room will affect families across America and decide if this economy is going to recover.”
“If we falter, if we don’t have sufficient political courage and will to get this done and this economy is going to be hurt then it is going to fall on our shoulders,” he added.
Said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spokesman Don Stewart after Sunday evening’s White House meeting: “It’s disappointing that the president is unable to bring his own party around to the entitlement reform that he put on the table. And it’s baffling that the president and his party continue to insist on massive tax hikes in the middle of a jobs crisis while refusing to take significant action on spending reductions at a time of record deficits.”
The eight legislators, including Speaker Boehner and Sen. McConnell, met with President Obama and Vice President Biden for about 75 minutes.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner affirmed that Aug. 2 is the final deadline for congressional action to raise the debt limit and avoid default.
“There is no credible way to give Congress more time. There’s no constitutional option. There’s no delay option. There’s not creative financial option. They have to act by the 2nd,” Geithner said.
The tense Sunday meeting came after Rep. Boehner called President Obama at Camp David on Saturday to tell him that he would not be able to pursue a $4 trillion deficit reduction package that included nearly $1 trillion in new revenues.
President Obama and Boehner emerged from a White House meeting last Thursday with a shared goal of pursuing a large, multi-year deal. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., dissented from Boehner’s position and expressed a preference to pursue the $2 trillion worth of spending cuts and savings identified in the talks led by Vice President Biden that broke down two weeks ago when Cantor declared an impasse.
If the issue of tax increases is what caused Rep. Cantor to walk away from the Biden talks, it’s unclear why returning to that $2 trillion framework is now an attractive alternative to the larger deal.
NOT SO MINNESOTA NICE
Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann may both call Minnesota home, but that didn’t stop the former governor from launching a new and sharper line of attack against the congresswoman on Sunday.
“I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I’ve campaigned for her, I respect her. But her record of accomplishment in Congress is nonexistent. It’s nonexistent,” Pawlenty told David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“[W]e’re not looking for folks who, you know, just have speech capabilities, we’re looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion. I’ve done that, she hasn’t.”
Rep. Bachmann responded with a statement Sunday evening befitting a front-running candidate, jabbing Pawlenty for going negative while attempting to stay above the fray by highlighting her Capitol Hill record.
“Instead of negativity, I want to focus on my accomplishments,” she said. “I have fought the cap-and-trade agenda, rather than implement it, and I will work to end cap-and-trade as president of the United States. I stood up against President Obama’s support of the $700 billion bailout rather than defend it.
“I was a leading voice, fighting against Obamacare and the unconstitutional individual mandates; I did not lift my voice in praise of it. My message brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington, D.C., to oppose Obamacare. As president I will not rest until Obamacare is repealed. And I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling.”
Pawlenty’s decision to step up his criticism of Bachmann is designed to do two things: slow her momentum in Iowa, where she has surged to near the top of the GOP field, while also proving to party insiders that he has the toughness to challenge his competitors directly.
If Pawlenty is going to make a run, now is the time to do it. With his Iowa poll numbers languishing in single digits, Pawlenty has to find a way to change the narrative that his campaign would be unlikely to recover if he fails to place in the top two or three in next month’s straw poll.
The best (and perhaps only) way to accomplish that is by actually finishing at or near the top of the straw poll, thereby setting off a slew of “comeback” stories in the press, which would in turn give Pawlenty much-needed momentum heading into the fall.
PALIN: ‘I CAN WIN A NATIONAL ELECTION’
Never one to allow the media spotlight to shine elsewhere for too long, Sarah Palin appears on the cover of the new edition of Newsweek to remain a part of the presidential speculation conversation.
“I believe that I can win a national election,” the former governor of Alaska tells Newsweek’s Peter Boyer. “Thank goodness the field is not yet set. I think that there does need to be more vigorous debate. There needs to be a larger field. And there’s still time. There’s still months ahead, where more folks can jump in and start articulating their positions,” she added.
Palin continues to seek maximum leverage for her eventual decision about 2012, but she’s also clearly gaming out her next steps for how to remain politically relevant should she choose not take the plunge.
A social conservative group asking Republican presidential candidates to sign a “Marriage Vow” has retracted a controversial part of pledge suggesting that black children born into slavery were more likely to have a stable family life than black kids born today.
The document, advanced by former gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats and his advocacy group, the Family Leader, called on candidates to protect the institution of marriage. The preamble to the vow included the following language:
“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”
POLITICO’s Maggie Haberman has a statement from the Family Leader walking back the slavery reference in the vow:
“‘After careful deliberation and wise insight and input from valued colleagues we deeply respect, we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued, and such misconstruction can detract from the core message of the Marriage Vow: that ALL of us must work to strengthen and support families and marriages between one woman and one man,’ the group’s officials said in a statement.”
Rep. Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum both committed to signing the pledge last week, before the slavery language was removed. A spokeswoman for Rep. Bachmann told Haberman that the language in question was not part of the vow signed by the candidate.
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