Shutdown Averted, Obama and GOP Prepare for Much Bigger Fights Ahead

BY David Chalian  April 11, 2011 at 8:51 AM EST

President Obama visits Lincoln Memorial; photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool-Getty Images

President Obama shakes the hands of tourists visiting the Lincoln Memorial during a surprise visit a day after negotiations with Congress prevented a government shutdown. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool-Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Political leaders in Washington were able to avoid a government shutdown by reaching a deal centered on $38.5 billion in spending cuts for the remaining six months of the fiscal year.

The debate over the fiscal crisis facing the United States now moves from the billions to the trillions.

In as soon as five weeks, the country’s debt limit may need to be raised above its current $14.3 trillion in order to avoid default and significantly damaging the full faith and credit of the United States.

At a fund-raiser in Connecticut on Saturday evening, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made clear that legislation aimed at raising the debt limit will only arrive on President Obama’s desk if it includes additional spending cuts.

“The president says I want you to send me a clean bill. Well guess what, Mr. President: Not a chance you’re going to get a clean bill,” Rep. Boehner said. “There will not be an increase in the debt limit without something really, really big attached to it.”

On Friday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, referred to the coming battle over the debt limit as “Armageddon.”

President Obama isn’t unfamiliar with using the debt limit vote to make a political point. Back in 2006, then-Sen. Obama voted against raising the debt limit.

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies,” Sen. Obama said at the time of his “no” vote.

White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that President Obama now considers that vote “a mistake.”

That was not the response from the White House just a few months ago when Robert Gibbs was asked about it at a press briefing.

“I think it’s important that the outcome — based on the outcome of that vote, as I mentioned, the full faith and credit was not in doubt — the full faith and credit of our government and our economy was not in doubt. And the President used it to make a point about needing to get serious about fiscal discipline,” Gibbs said at the time.

Now that it’s abundantly clear many members of Congress will try to make political points surrounding the debt limit debate, the White House has altered its course and declared President Obama’s history on this issue “a mistake.”

President Obama will seek to put the country’s debt and deficit, and his proposed solutions for reining in both, into broader context with a speech on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The New York Times suggests the speech will be light on specifics.

However, Plouffe made clear on his Sunday talk show rounds that the president’s plan will include a mix of Medicare and Medicaid savings, additional spending cuts and a continued push to raise taxes on those earning more than $250,000 per year.

If Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., considers his GOP budget proposal last week as leading with his chin, you might want to consider President Obama’s speech as an attempt to land a right hook.

The Associated Press, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post all have speech thumb suckers for you to peruse.

The Ryan approach vs. the Obama approach to tackling entitlement reform and reducing the unsustainable deficits and debt facing the country could very well end up being the frame in which the 2012 election is fought.

PLOUFFE DISSES THE DONALD

The Obama re-election campaign won’t publicly say whom it’s most concerned about running against in 2012, but it’s clear that person is not Donald Trump.

In an appearance Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Plouffe said, “[T]here is zero chance that Donald Trump would ever be hired by the American people” to be president.

Plouffe’s comments came in response to a question from Amanpour about Trump’s recent statements about whether President Obama was born in the United States.

That includes the line in a recent letter to the New York Times in which Trump wrote: “There’s at least a good chance that Barack Hussein Obama has made mincemeat of our great and cherished Constitution!”

“There may be a small part of the country that believes these things,” Plouffe said. “But mainstream Americans think it’s a sideshow. And what they want our leaders to do is focus squarely on the issues right in front of us.”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin entered the fray Sunday in an appearance on Fox News, saying she supported Trump’s effort to investigate the president’s birth certificate.

“More power to him. He’s not just throwing stones, you know — from the sidelines. He’s digging in there,” Palin said of Trump. “He’s paying for researchers to know why President Obama would have spent $2 million to not show his birth certificate.”

Palin said she believes President Obama was born in Hawaii but argued there’s something on the document the president “doesn’t want people to see.”

Trump, the billionaire real estate investor and reality TV star, recently tied for second with 17 percent support in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of potential 2012 GOP contenders.

Given Trump’s “behavior and spectacle over the last couple of weeks, I hope he keeps rising,” Plouffe said.

Trump isn’t someone known to bite his tongue, so Plouffe can surely expect a response in the not too distant future.

For the record, the non-partisan website FactCheck.org examined the president’s birth certificate in the summer of 2008 and concluded: “Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.”

SANTORUM SEEING ‘GREEN’

It pays to show up.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was one of three potential Republican presidential contenders to speak at the Greenville County, S.C., GOP convention this weekend and he came away the decisive winner of Saturday’s straw poll.

Santorum won 31 percent of the vote from a group of more than 400 activists in South Carolina’s largest county.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who also addressed the gathering, took 14 percent of the vote. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Donald Trump each received 7 percent to tie for third.

The third speaker, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, captured 5 percent of the vote.

Santorum has yet to announce his candidacy officially, but he has kept up a busy travel schedule to states that hold key early nominating contests. He’s been to South Carolina, home to the first-in-the-South primary, more than a dozen times, outpacing any of his fellow contenders at this point.

And while he’s polling in the single digits nationally, his strong conservative positions on social issues could give him a boost in Iowa and South Carolina, where Evangelicals make up a large percentage of the Republican turnout.

PAWLENTY’S PICK

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has named Nick Ayers as his campaign manager. Ayers has just completed a very successful tenure as executive director of the Republican Governors Association and was a top prospect for many presidential campaigns.

“Mary and I worked alongside Nick at the RGA. He is without question one of the best political talents in America. We are very excited Nick will lead our team. His leadership and record of winning tough races in every part of our country will provide even more momentum to our campaign to get America back on track,” said Pawlenty in a written statement announcing the hire.

For the last three months, Ayers had been helping lead the transition at the Republican National Committee from the Michael Steele era to the Reince Priebus era.

Ayers, 28, will move to Minneapolis and begin his job at the helm of Team Pawlenty on April 25.

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