Democrats Unhappy Over Possible Obama-Boehner Deal Focused on Cuts

BY News Desk  July 22, 2011 at 8:20 AM EST

House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama

A deal focusing on cuts, with increased revenues in the future, is not sitting well with Democrats. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

All the reporting Friday morning suggests that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner may be close to a deal that lowers the deficit by $3 trillion over the next 10 years, which would be mainly achieved through spending cuts and entitlement reforms with the promise of revenue increases through tax reform at some point next year.

However, it’s important to remember that if and when they come to terms and shake hands, that will only be the beginning.

A deal between Rep. Boehner, R-Ohio, and President Obama is not necessarily a piece of legislation that can pass both houses of Congress. Getting to 217 in the House and 60 in the Senate will require some serious work on the part of congressional leaders.

Talk that the deal might be focused on cuts with increased revenues coming in the future has President Obama’s liberal base up in arms.


“The Democratic base did not work night and day to elect Democrats so that they could cave to Tea Party extremists who are intent on gutting the social safety net millions of us fought to establish and protect,” said Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org, an organization that endorsed President Obama in his 2008 campaign. “Leaders [Nancy] Pelosi and [Harry] Reid have been clear that a deal that includes no revenues, or that cuts Social Security and Medicare benefits, cannot get the votes of their respective caucuses. Democratic Members of Congress must keep up this strong stance. Anything less would represent a betrayal of everything Democrats stand for.”

President Obama is clearly aware of the tricky waters he needs to navigate with liberals. He called the Democratic congressional leadership to the White House Thursday night for a two-hour meeting to help set the course.

The president also took to the airwaves of NPR to try and assuage concerns among many of his core supporters:

“A lot of the spending cuts that we’re making should be around areas like defense spending as opposed to food stamps. …What is true is that given the rising number of seniors and given the huge escalation in health care costs, that if we don’t structure those programs so that they are sustainable, then it’s going to be hard for the next generation to enjoy those same kinds of benefits.”

“And so we are going to have to make some modest changes that retain the integrity of the program, but make sure that they’re there for years to come. And that’s not even just a deficit problem, that’s a step that even if we were all Democrats up here on Capitol Hill, we’d have to start making to make sure the integrity of those programs are preserved.”

Friday, President Obama heads to the University of Maryland for an 11 a.m. ET town hall where the primary topics are expected to be the economy and the debt and deficit negotiations.

The president also penned a USA Today op-ed in which he writes, “[T]he truth is, you can’t get rid of the deficit by simply eliminating waste and fraud, or getting rid of pet projects and foreign aid, like some have suggested. Those things represent only a tiny fraction of what we spend our money on.”

As President Obama prepares to make a very tough sell to members of his party, he may be wishing he’d done more to protect those Blue Dogs and moderates who lost in the GOP wave of 2010. Their votes would likely be very welcome at the White House right about now.

THE HUNTSMAN SHUFFLE

Team Huntsman is expected to meet Friday in Washington to regroup, a day after campaign manager Susie Wiles stepped down from the top post.

The shake-up comes a month after Jon Huntsman announced he was running for president, a reflection of the difficulty the former Utah governor has had picking up any momentum at this early stage of the race.

But it’s days like these when Huntsman might take comfort in recent history.

Sens. John McCain and John Kerry each restructured the upper echelons of their campaign staffs during the nomination season and ultimately emerged as their party’s nominees.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton’s campaign shakeup in January 2008 didn’t produce her desired result in the end.

That’s all to say that staff shake-ups aren’t at all uncommon in presidential politics, and it’s better to take care of them as early as possible.

If, as advertised, this move produces the more “aggressive phase” of Huntsman’s campaign, it’ll be in stark contrast to the quiet and low-key month he’s had on the trail since declaring his candidacy.

Huntsman enjoyed a much-hyped announcement last month, sparked in part by a series short vignettes of a motocross rider in Utah’s Monument Valley. But the rollout was far from perfect. His name was misspelled on press credentials and the speech itself seemed to underwhelm the crowd.

Cue the Rick Santorum motocross parody.

Taking over the campaign operations will be Matt David, who had been serving as communications director. David is a veteran of campaign and government war room operations from McCain’s 2008 run to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office.

Huntsman’s lead adviser, John Weaver — another McCain campaign veteran — told the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake and Nia-Malika Henderson that the operation was starting a new chapter.

“Now the campaign is moving into phase two, which will be more aggressive from a messaging and tactical standpoint, and Matt is prepared to take that on,” Weaver told the Post reporters.

POLITICO’s Kasie Hunt and Jonathan Martin, meanwhile, take a look at what’s on the docket for Friday’s strategy session.

“Prime on the agenda will be TV ads. Two prominent Huntsman backers said they would like to go up on the air in the near future – a move that could bolster the former Utah governor’s anemic poll standing.

“But not everybody in Huntsmanworld is itching to go on the air.

“‘I want to see him raise a little money and put it in the tank first,’ said [Huntsman pollster Whit] Ayres, adding: ‘It’s too early to be on TV.’”

FAA FUNDING STALEMATE

While a deal to raise the debt ceiling remains elusive, lawmakers have also demonstrated this week that crafting even a relatively small funding bill is no easy task.

The temporary funding measure for the Federal Aviation Administration is set to run out at midnight Friday, and absent a resolution, the agency will face a partial shutdown.

The sticking point appears to be a provision in the House-passed bill that would make it more difficult for transportation workers to unionize.

Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.V., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, accused his House counterpart, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., of developing legislation in a “partisan manner.”

“It is very unfortunate that the House is taking a rash approach to pass a bill when we have made so much progress in negotiating a complete FAA reauthorization package,” Sen. Rockefeller said in a statement Thursday.

Rep. Mica has blamed Senate Democrats for the impasse, contending that they’re holding up the legislation over objections to his effort to do away with funding for rural airports, including three in the home states of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Rockefeller.

“It is now up to the Senate to pass this bill and not shut down FAA programs over a little provision that eliminates huge government subsidies to just three small airports,” Rep. Mica argued in a statement Wednesday.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Thursday that failure to approve a funding measure would result in the furlough of some 4,000 FAA employees and cost the government as much as $200 million a week in airline taxes. Infrastructure projects at airports would also be put on hold, LaHood said, but he assured the public that airline safety would not be compromised.

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