President Obama Open to Short-term Increase in Debt Ceiling
President Obama would only accept a stop-gap measure of “a few days.” White House photo.
With negotiators running out of time to raise the country’s borrowing limit, President Obama signaled Wednesday he would be willing to accept a short-term increase in the debt ceiling if lawmakers were close to nailing down a comprehensive deficit reduction plan.
“We would not support a short-term extension absent an agreement to a larger deal. That’s not acceptable,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. “Obviously, if both sides agree to something significant, we will support the measures needed to finalize the details of that.”
Carney later sent an email to reporters to clarify that the president would only accept a stop-gap measure of “a few days.”
That all hinges on a deal being done, and right now there is no deal.
A short-term extension could buy time for lawmakers to finish work on a framework unveiled Tuesday by the Senate’s “Gang of Six.” Their bipartisan plan would cut the deficit by roughly $4 trillion over the next decade, beginning with an immediate down payment of $500 billion. The savings would be achieved through spending reductions, including to defense programs, reforms to federal health programs and $1.2 trillion in new revenues from overhauling the tax code.
The president has called the proposal “a very significant step,” and members of both parties seem to agree.
“The fact that Republicans are coming out for revenues is certainly something of a breakthrough,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., meanwhile, described the framework as “productive” and “constructive.”
“It solves a lot of problems and it contains the primary components of a framework for a resolution,” he told the NewsHour’s Kwame Holman.
The major hang-up with the “Gang of Six” plan appears to be with tax code reforms — eliminating deductions and closing loopholes while lowering individual rates — to bring in additional revenues.
Carl Hulse and Jackie Calmes of the New York Times report on the dynamic at play among the House GOP leadership when it comes to the revenue issue.
“Politically, the main question remained whether House Republicans would be willing to negotiate over any package that could be construed as raising taxes, and throughout the day there were signs of internal debate among party leaders.
“Speaker John A. Boehner has shown continued interest in a deal if it can be done in a way that emphasizes lower tax rates.
“But Representative Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican, and others like Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the Budget Committee chairman, warned that the most specific proposal to be made public so far — and the one that has done the most to reopen the possibility of a bipartisan accord — relied far too much for them on higher revenues to cut projected deficits.”
President Obama met separately with Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House Wednesday, but reports indicate those talks did not produce significant progress.
Those following the debt debate should get a better sense of where things stand Thursday when Rep. Boehner holds his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill at 11:15 a.m. ET and when Carney goes before White House reporters at 12:30 p.m. ET.
A DOCTOR’S NOTE
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, the Tea Party-backed, conservative presidential candidate sitting atop many polls in Iowa and running second to Mitt Romney nationally, spent a second consecutive day attempting to quell reports that her propensity to suffer from migraine headaches would somehow disqualify her for a potential presidency.
On Wednesday, Bachmann’s campaign released a letter from the House physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, declaring Rep. Bachmann in “overall good health” and saying her headaches were “infrequent.”
Rep. Bachmann has been on a disciplined mission to present herself as a viable alternative to establishment GOP hopefuls ever since she announced her candidacy at a CNN debate in New Hampshire in June. It’s that viability threshold that the headache story threatens and is precisely why Bachmann’s campaign has been aggressively trying to move past it.
As with any story that knocks a candidate off message, opponents immediately size up the opportunity-to-risk ratio in how to respond in the most politically advantageous way.
Take a look at the difference in how Romney and Tim Pawlenty responded to questions about the story and you’ll learn all you need to know about where each of their campaigns are at the moment.
Pawlenty fanned the flames to keep the story alive as he doggedly crisscrossed Iowa in an attempt to overtake Bachmann in next month’s consequential Ames Straw Poll.
The Washington Post reports that Pawlenty “suggested Wednesday that the headaches might preclude her from serving in the White House. At a campaign event Wednesday at a sports bar in Indianola, Iowa, Pawlenty said that candidates must show they can do ‘all of the job, all of the time.’”
That’s a not too subtle display of his desire to have questions and controversy surround his primary rival in Iowa.
In Southern California, Romney made clear that he was ready to help Bachmann move beyond this.
“There’s no question in my mind that Michele Bachmann’s health is in no way an impediment to her being able to serve as president,” Romney said.
Of course, Romney is eager to see Bachmann remain a strong contender in Iowa for as long as possible, because he would like nothing more than to end up in a one-on-one battle for the nomination with her come next February.
MORE HORSERACE NUMBERS
A day after an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Romney sitting atop the field of GOP presidential contenders with Rep. Bachmann in second place, ABC News/Washington Post is out with a survey largely confirming those results.
From Dan Balz and Jon Cohen of the Washington Post:
“Romney also runs ahead of the pack on three crucial attributes: leadership, experience and, perhaps most important, who can beat the president next year.
“But overall, Romney’s support is tepid, particularly among the party’s most energized constituency — the strong supporters of the tea party movement.
“It is because of those shortcomings that many Republicans are speculating about who is best positioned to emerge as Romney’s strongest competitor. Most of the recent focus has been on Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is publicly weighing whether to enter the contest.
“What the new poll highlights is the hold that Palin still has on segments of the party faithful despite some long-standing liabilities and deep skepticism among many voters about her qualifications to be president. In the poll, Palin shows certain strengths that none of the others chasing Romney does at this point.
“Without Palin in the race, Romney tops the field at 30 percent to Bachmann’s 16 percent, with Paul at 11 percent. Perry is at 8 percent.”
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