Fiscal Fight Looming Over August Recess

BY Terence Burlij and Christina Bellantoni  July 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM EDT


The Morning LinePressure to reach an agreement on how to fund the U.S. government lingers while Congress prepares to go on a month-long recess next week.

Congress is a week away from a month-long summer recess, and appears to be on a collision course for a September spending showdown.

Lawmakers will have little time left to deal with the issue of funding the government upon their return, and tension is escalating while President Barack Obama goes after Republicans as promoters of gridlock in a series of campaign-style speeches.

The Washington Post’s Zachary Goldfarb and Paul Kane looked at the Obama administration’s strategy and noted that the White House is prepared to aggressively push back on attempts by congressional Republicans to make deeper cuts to domestic programs than were made through the sequester earlier this year.

They also write that the president could demand that Congress undo the automatic, across-the-board spending reductions enacted in the spring:

White House officials also are discussing a potential strategy to try to stop the sequestration cuts from continuing, the lawmakers and Democrats said. Under this scenario, the president might refuse to sign a new funding measure that did not roll back the sequester. No decision has been made.

But some of Obama’s top economic advisers fear that they may not be able to stop what they consider damaging cuts without a sharper confrontation, the sources said. Other advisers are urging a more cautious course, saying it would be better for Obama to seek a more targeted agreement that would increase funding for a smaller set of priorities.

Obama would still prefer to replace all the domestic and defense cuts with a long-term budget deal and avoid talk of a shutdown, according to the people familiar with the discussions. But some White House officials consider the Sept. 30 date the last chance to cancel a portion of the sequestration cuts before the 2014 midterm elections.

The Post duo also notes that White House officials “are all but resigned to any potential budget agreement lasting just a year or two — not the long-term fiscal pact they have sought.” That comes as voters are telling pollsters about their deep dissatisfaction with Washington and the lack of getting much accomplished on Capitol Hill.

The task of reaching an agreement on funding the government could be complicated by GOP divisions over funding of the president’s health care overhaul. A group of Republican lawmakers want to cut off money for the program as part of any spending deal, but others in the party are wary of the potential public backlash of a government shutdown.

Politico’s Manu Raju and Jake Sherman explain:

The debate is happening behind closed doors and over Senate lunches, as well as during a frank meeting Wednesday with House leaders in Speaker John Boehner’s suite where fresh concerns were aired about the party’s strategy. On Thursday, the dispute began to spill into public view, most notably when three Senate Republicans — including Minority Whip John Cornyn — withdrew their signatures from a conservative letter demanding defunding Obamacare as a condition for supporting the government funding measure.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) called the push to defund the law through the continuing resolution the “dumbest idea” he had ever heard.

“Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not achievable by shutting down the federal government,” Burr said. “At some point, you’re going to open the federal government back up, and Barack Obama is going to be president.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) have circulated letters in the Senate and House to push their colleagues to unite behind the anti-Obamacare effort. The proponents of the push argue that if the government shuts down over Obamacare, it will be the president’s fault — not theirs.

The president took aim at the tactics of Republicans during a visit to Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday, the latest stop in an effort to promote his economic principles.

“Shutting down the government just because I’m for keeping it open, that’s not an economic plan,” he said. “Threatening that you won’t pay the bills in this country when we’ve already racked up those bills, that’s not an economic plan. That’s just being a deadbeat.”

The president’s campaign spinoff, Organizing for Action, refashioned clips of one of his speeches for a new 60-second cable television ad pushing his ideas.

With Congress back home for almost the entire month of August and first week of September, little dealmaking is expected on any of the major issues Washington is grappling with. And with the spending debate expected to be the immediate focus for lawmakers when they get back to town, it could mean even further delay for one of the president’s top second-term priorities: comprehensive immigration reform.

Editor’s note: For the rest of the summer, the Morning Line will only publish once a week, on Mondays. Visit our home page for news and show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

LINE ITEMS

  • The New York Times’ Charlie Savage details how Chief Justice John Roberts has reshaped the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

  • The Federal Election Commission decided that gay couples will be treated the same as straight couples when it comes to campaign finance rules.

  • Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner told reporters Thursday there are a few more women with whom he sexted, saying he wasn’t sure of the exact number because it depended on how you defined his behavior.

  • Four more women are accusing San Diego Mayor and former Democratic Rep. Bob Filner of sexual harassment, prompting members of his party to call for him to resign.

  • A new automated survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling found Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul leading a pack of potential 2016 GOP presidential contenders, with 16 percent. He’s followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, each at 13 percent. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had led in the poll as recently as March, but dropped to sixth in this most recent survey.

  • Someone splattered green paint on the Lincoln Memorial overnight.

  • Jezebel has a handy guide for … well, just read it.

  • Matt Bevin, the tea party-backed challenger to Mitch McConnell, told Bloomberg News on Wednesday that he was prepared to use his personal wealth to defeat the Senate Minority Leader in next year’s Kentucky GOP primary. “I’ll be the biggest nuisance he’s ever had in his political career,” Bevin said.

  • The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg explores the National Popular Vote interstate compact and how it could revolutionize the process of electing future presidents.

  • Check out this Civil Rights interactive from the Tennessean.

  • Bloomberg’s David Glovin reports on the fraternity industry’s political arm known as “FratPAC” and its lobbying against anti-hazing bills.

  • The Washington Post has the details of a tentative deal in place for a new D.C. United soccer stadium in Southwest Washington.

  • Need a pick-me-up? Look at this picture of a baby zonkey, and that should do the trick.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • NewsHour hosted a live Twitter chat on gun violence Thursday. We’ll be hosting similar chats regularly on Thursdays. Join the conversation with #NewsHourChats.

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid watches the show every night when he’s home. Watch Judy Woodruff interview him and don’t miss his remarks about a 2016 Hillary Clinton candidacy.

  • We examined the fallout from the Justice Department’s decision to force Texas to go through a pre-clearance process with The Heritage Foundation’s Hans van Spakovsky and Nina Perales of MALDEF.

  • Following up on Mr. Obama’s remarks at the White House last Friday, Jeff Brown hosted a NewsHour discussion about being a black man in America.

  • America needs more foreign workers to stay innovative and economically competitive, argues Silicon Valley guru Vivek Wadhwa on Making Sen$e.

  • Wadhwa responds to a trio of academic researchers who argued Wednesday on Making Sen$e that granting H-1B visas to more guest workers depresses domestic workers’ wages in the high-tech industry.

  • Are you a young adult impacted by the health care reform law? NewsHour wants to hear from you.

TOP TWEETS

Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: