GOP Seeks to Move Budget Debate Beyond Medicare

BY David Chalian and Terence Burlij  May 26, 2011 at 9:15 AM EDT

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Harry Reid, D-Nev. Photo by Tom Williams/Roll Call

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., leave a news conference at the Capitol addressing the Republican budget proposal. Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call.

The Morning Line

One day after seeing an electoral rebuke to the House GOP budget proposal that overhauls Medicare into a voucher-like system for future beneficiaries, only five Republican Senators defected in support of it after Democrats forced a vote Wednesday night.

Per the Washington Post’s Paul Kane:

“[T]he unity among Republicans — with only five out of 47 voting against it — served as an important sign that party leaders remain wedded to a deficit-reduction plan that is a loyalty test for many GOP voters but is widely unpopular, according to polls.”

The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer concisely identifies the current political conundrum for both parties:

“[A]fter a 2010 election that seemed to signal not only a Republican resurgence but also a rejection of big government and a need for bold, Tea Party-type steps to slash spending, the politics now look much more complicated. Both parties are being reminded anew that voters like the idea of budget cuts, but that they often recoil when those cuts threaten the programs that touch their lives.”

House Republicans are eager to move the economic discussion away from their budget plan and its unpopular Medicare overhaul and back to the more comfortable turf of lowering taxes and getting rid of burdensome regulations on businesses.

The Wall Street Journal provides a preview of the House GOP message pivot:

“The plan includes a 25% top tax rate on corporations and individuals, compared with the current 35%, as well as higher domestic-energy production, new curbs on government regulations and overhauls of U.S. patent and visa systems to help entrepreneurs and high-tech firms.

“In addition, the plan calls for aligning the U.S. with other major economies that basically tax their multinational corporations only on domestic earnings. That proposal could offer a boost to supporters of legislation calling for a temporary tax holiday for U.S. multinationals. It also calls for eliminating ‘special interest tax breaks’ as a way to offset the budgetary impact of lower tax rates, without offering specifics.”

SPECULATING ABOUT PALIN

“Signs Grow That Palin May Run” blares the New York Times headline above Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg’s story, which pieces together the purchase of a $1.7 million home in Scottsdale, Ariz., the rehiring of two former political aides, an increase in public appearances and a biographical film to debut in Iowa:

“Taken together, the moves are at odds with conventional wisdom — if not wishful thinking — among establishment Republicans in Washington that Ms. Palin has decided not to run. That thinking has been voiced increasingly as the party’s professional political class, which Ms. Palin has railed against, has sought to declare the field of candidates closed.

“Ms. Palin would undoubtedly be able to raise substantial campaign financing and attract constant media attention if she ran. But she is a divisive figure in the party, and would have to overcome what polls have consistently suggested is skepticism and even opposition to her among some fellow Republicans.

“Still, supporters of Ms. Palin say that her constituency beyond the Beltway remains eager, and aides and associates have said she is receptive to their calls of ‘Run, Sarah, run.’”

POLITICO’s Andy Barr takes a look at the recent thinning of the GOP field, specifically Mike Huckabee’s departure from contention, as a possible impetus for Palin to give more serious thought to a run.

A new national Gallup poll of Republicans suggests that Huckabee’s departure from the race could indeed work to Palin’s advantage. Mitt Romney is the only other Republican candidate sitting at the top of the heap with Palin. He garners the support of 17 percent of those polled, compared to her 15 percent support. Both Romney and Palin’s support is below the 22 percent who say they have no opinion or chose none of the above.

NEW CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF

Several media organizations are reporting that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will be President Obama’s nominee to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top uniformed position in the armed forces and senior military adviser to the president. If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Adm. Mike Mullen, who has held that position since October 2007.

ABC News’ Martha Raddatz and Luis Martinez provide context for the selection:

“Dempsey’s selection finishes out the realignment of the Obama administration’s Pentagon team brought on by the retirements of Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, will replace Gates as defense secretary when he leaves his post June 30.”

Dempsey has been Army chief of staff for two months. According to the Associated Press, such a rapid promotion is rare.

The National Journal reports that one of President Obama’s favorite generals, Gen. James Cartwright, was passed over for the position.

Wired’s Spencer Ackerman explains some of the traits that make Dempsey stand out among other officers:

“He’s taken to the blogosphere to explain his thinking about the military’s future — specifically, that it should train foreign armies if it wants to avoid the next bloody land war. That needs to become ‘a core competency for our force in the future,’ he told senators in his March confirmation hearing. He’s said to be ‘sick of the word ‘counterinsurgency,” since it defines the Army’s task in terms of its adversaries, rather than a positive agenda. All that is going to be music to the ears of Obama as he seeks military advice on dialing down the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and moving to an era of tight defense budgets.”

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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