Obama Continues Outreach to Hill As Poll Numbers Dip

BY Terence Burlij and Christina Bellantoni  March 13, 2013 at 9:12 AM EDT

President Barack Obama arrives at Capitol Hill Tuesday to meet with Senate Democrats who are planning to unveil their budget blueprint this week. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Much has been made about President Barack Obama’s stepped up outreach to lawmakers on Capitol Hill aimed at boosting support for his fiscal policies. But there are fresh signs that the president should also keep an eye on his standing with the American people when it comes to his handling of the economy.

A new Washington Post/ABC News survey found that the president currently holds a 44 percent to 40 percent advantage over congressional Republicans on the question of whom the public trusts more to deal with economic concerns. In December, the poll showed an 18-point split in favor of the president.

The Washington Post’s Jon Cohen and Karen Tumulty also explain the dip in the president’s overall approval rating:

Obama’s overall job-approval rating stands at 50 percent, down five points from before he took the oath of office in January. Looking along partisan lines, the slippage since then has been particularly pronounced among political independents. Two months ago, independents tilted clearly in his direction, with 54 percent approving and 41 percent disapproving. Now, half of independents express a negative opinion of the president’s performance; just 44 percent approve.

Still, they note, the survey conducted last week of 1,001 adults found Congress “remains far lower than the president in public esteem, with only 16 percent approving of its performance and 80 percent disapproving.”

The poll comes as the president has recently shifted his strategy in pushing his legislative agenda, making a public effort to seek compromise with Republican lawmakers, including a dinner last week with a dozen GOP senators. On Wednesday he will take his next step by meeting with the entire House GOP conference on their turf. It’s the first time he’s met with them at the Capitol since Jan. 27, 2009. He attended the House GOP retreat the following January, but last met with the conference at the White House on June 1, 2011.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Obama outlined his philosophy on his recent outreach to Republicans. He said he has discovered “people don’t always know what I’ve actually proposed. And it’s a lot easier to have a conversation when there’s something specific. So I’ve said, ‘Here this may not have gotten reported on. Maybe you guys didn’t see it in your office. But here are the things we’re looking to do.’”

He said it’s a process that could eventually result in consensus on fiscal matters and shrinking the deficit, saying he is prepared to do “some tough stuff,” but overall the president did not sound as optimistic about a so-called grand bargain emerging:

But ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide. It may be that ideologically, if their position is, “We can’t do any revenue,” or, “We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,” if that’s the position, then we’re probably not gonna be able to get a deal.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday he was taking a wait-and-see approach before making a judgment about the president’s commitment to working with Republicans.

“The question is, is he going to go out on the campaign trail and start campaigning against us again like he has been since the election,” Ryan said. “Was the so-called charm offensive a temporary, poll-driven political calculation, or was it a sincere conversion to try and bring people together?”

Ryan continued: “The question is, is there follow through? This question is, does the campaign start back up or does the engagement continue in a real, constructive and promising way? I don’t know the answer to that question. Time will tell.”

The 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee unveiled his 2014 fiscal year budget on Tuesday, which would cut the deficit by $4.6 trillion over 10 years in part from repealing the president’s healthcare law and transforming Medicare into a “premium-support” program in which seniors would get a fixed federal subsidy to purchase coverage.

The president told ABC that his budget outline to be released in April would not balance the budget it 10 years. But he charged that Ryan’s proposal does so by adding to the burden shared by low and middle-class Americans.

“We’re not gonna balance the budget in ten years because if you look at what Paul Ryan does to balance the budget, it means that you have to voucherize Medicare; you have to slash deeply into programs like Medicaid; you’ve essentially got to either tax middle-class families a lot higher than you currently are; or you can’t lower rates the way he’s promised,” Mr. Obama said.

“My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance,” the president added. “If we’ve controlled spending and we’ve got a smart entitlement package, then potentially what you have is balance. But it’s not balance on the backs of, you know, the poor, the elderly, students who need student loans, families who’ve got disabled kids. That’s not the right way to balance our budget.”

Mr. Obama on Tuesday met with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill. His former colleagues described the session as “workmanlike” as he heard their concerns on mostly fiscal matters. But liberals in the caucus didn’t back off confronting the president about their concerns over entitlement issues.

Here are 10 things you need to know about Ryan’s budget, courtesy of Roll Call.

In PBS NewsHour’s segment about Ryan’s budget proposal, Jeffrey Brown talked with Nancy Cook of National Journal about the dueling pieces of fiscal legislation — the Ryan plan and the Senate Democratic blueprint set for release Wednesday. She noted that Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., has a difficult job ahead to unite some “very different people in her caucus, everyone from, you know, the liberal independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, to Mark Warner, who is a senator from Virginia who has been much more of a deficit hawk.”

Watch the segment here or below:

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Ryan unveiled his budget on Monday. He released his plan Tuesday.

LINE ITEMS

  • As lawmakers wrangle over just what should be exempted from the sequester and money to implement the president’s health care law, the continuing resolution legislation to keep the government funded stalled in the Senate.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced with only Democratic votes legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases.
  • Virginia’s Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling decided against running for governor as an independent, which helps Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
  • The Justice Department’s inspector general released a report showing the Voting Rights division with “numerous and troubling examples of harassment and marginalization of employees and managers.”
  • The Associated Press reports on the White House response to complaints from Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge that the president has not named any African Americans to his Cabinet since beginning his second term.
  • Colorado is one step closer to legalizing civil unions.
  • The man who secretly captured the Mitt Romney 47 percent video will go public in an interview on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” on Wednesday.
  • Discouraged with the cost of a new biometric ID card, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., suggested Tuesday that the Senate immigration group’s legislation may have to rely on an expansion of the controversial E-Verify system for employers to vet potential employees.
  • Casting the shadow of blame down Pennsylvania Avenue, House Republicans released a web video explaining that while White House tours may have been halted due to sequestration, the Capitol doors are still open to visitors.
  • George P. Bush made it official Tuesday that he will seek the office of Texas Land Commissioner. The presidential nephew and grandson (Jeb Bush’s son) announced his bid in a tweet.
  • Scott Romney, brother of Mitt and son of George, won’t be running for U.S. Senate in Michigan in 2014.
  • TMZ first reported Tuesday that the First Lady was among the latest high profile victims of online hacking. The FBI and LAPD are reportedly investigating Russian hackers for exposing the personal and financial information of Michelle Obama and Joe Biden, among others.
  • The Hill’s Molly Hooper follows up with those House Republicans booted from top committees as punishment for speaking against leadership.
  • Politico’s Ken Vogel details the Republican who’s-who that was a closed-door weekend retreat sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute.
  • Slate’s John Dickerson examines the argument that the president’s outreach to Republicans could be a trap.
  • Mitch McConnell is buying up air time.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s excuse to get out of jury duty is that he has “irreconcilable conflicts within my public duties as governor.” And a new survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling found that he is in bad shape ahead of his 2014 re-election bid.
  • Digital First Media’s Ryan Beckwith looks at former senators and where they are now.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a constitutional amendment related to campaign finance that seeks to find a solution to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. The “Democracy is for the People amendment” aims to “stop corporations and their front groups from using their profits and dark money donations to influence elections,” Sanders said. He said eight other states joined his, along with more than 300 cities and towns, to pass resolutions calling for the ruling to be overturned. Similar legislation was introduced in the House.
  • “Everyone knows there’s no decent barbecue in Washington.” That’s right, Sen. Claire McCaskill and Rep. Kevin McCarthy gave their thoughts on Netflix’s “House of Cards.”
  • Two of the three candidates in Massachusetts’ GOP primary, state Rep. Dan Winslow and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, released campaign videos Tuesday.
  • In the latest edition of PBS’ SXSW Diaries, Steve Goldbloom gets actor Paul Rudd to dish on the genesis of the term “dramedy.”
  • Halter tops, miniskirts and bedroom slippers are among the fashion don’ts U.S. News and World Report’s Elizabeth Flock included in a post on what to wear to the Conservative Political Action Conference set for this week. Flock also has the 411 on a zombie-themed networking party.
  • Today’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA finds that African Americans, Hispanics and young people are the least likely to use traditional banks.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • The Daily Download segment examined how the new Organizing for Action spinoff of the Obama campaign will use technology to push its issue campaign. Watch here or below.

And as if on cue, Organizing for Action emailed supporters Tuesday asking them to share stories about how the sequester is affecting their communities. Included in the note was the story of a fifth grade teacher in Tampa and how her county’s schools “could” lose $3 million in funding for Head Start programs, and school lunches and “as much as $2 million in federal funding for special education.” “The sequester isn’t a list of numbers made up to scare you. It’s a very real thing that will negatively impact real people — like Megan’s 36 students and their families,” the message read.

  • Judy Woodruff talked with Katha Pollitt of The Nation, “The Black Snob” blogger Danielle Belton and Jody Greenstone Miller, CEO of Business Talent Group about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book “Lean In” and the ongoing conversation about the role of women in society. Watch that here.
  • Don’t miss this West Virginia Public Broadcasting piece about our Student Reporting Labs.
  • Jenny Marder looks at how to eat an apple in space.

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Katelyn Polantz, Cassie M. Chew, Linda J. Scott and politics desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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

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