Republicans Plan Vote to Cut $61 Billion From Budget

BY David Chalian  February 17, 2011 at 8:18 AM EDT

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, arrives for a news conference at RNC headquarters earlier this week. Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call.

The Morning Line

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, may have lost an intra-party skirmish on funding for an alternative engine for a fighter jet and Democrats may have successfully wooed enough Republicans to restore funding for police officers, but the big moment many new members have been waiting for is due to arrive later Thursday, when the House is expected to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through Sept. 30 with more than $61 billion fewer dollars.

“I have no doubts in the coming weeks and months that people will see our resolve around solving our deficit problem,” Speaker Boehner said in an interview with the New York Times’ Carl Hulse. “We are going to cut spending. There aren’t any ifs, ands or buts about it,” he added.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s original plan was to have all the voting done by 3 p.m. ET so that members could begin their district work period over the next 10 days. But with more than 500 amendments offered to the funding bill and Speaker Boehner committed to an open, if unwieldy, process, the legislative work may slip into the evening and perhaps into another late night session.

As the bill makes it way to the Senate, the Democrats in charge there will continue to employ the “scalpel, not machete” mantra the president put to use earlier this week. There will be far more to negotiate in this bill than there is time in which to negotiate it, so a short-term extension at current funding levels is expected to pass to allow time for the creation of a deal between the chambers.

MAN ON A MISSION

New York Rep. Steve Israel, the new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is making no secret what his goal is for 2012. “I wake up every single morning trying to figure out how to win 25 seats. Being in the minority sucks, but being in the minority and being able to do something about it is priceless,” the congressman told reporters Wednesday at his first press briefing since taking over as head of the DCCC.

As it stands, Democrats will need to pick up 25 seats in the House to reclaim the majority in the 113th Congress. At the top of the party’s wish list are 14 seats currently held by Republicans, districts which Rep. Israel describes as having “strong Democratic DNA” because they were won by Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and President Obama in 2008.

The chairman said his organization would announce its first recruits for the 2012 cycle at the end of March, calling the process “fluid” as a result of congressional redistricting.

“There are some recruits who simply don’t want to announce now, because if you are a strong recruit living in a state controlled by Republicans, where redistricting is controlled by the Republicans, you do not want to announce that you’re running because Republicans will redistrict you to another state,” Rep. Israel said. “Some of our members are going to lay a little low for the time being. And that’s fine. I would rather have the right recruit later than the wrong recruit earlier.”

Money will also be a factor for Democrats, with the party committee carrying $20 million in debt into 2011. Rep. Israel said he would not “sugarcoat” the issue, calling it a “challenge.”

But the new chairman also said the debt was “more manageable” than he had originally thought because of the party’s recent fundraising success. The committee announced Tuesday it brought in $4.4 million last month, its second-highest January total on record.

KEYSTONE REBOUND

It was just more than three months ago when Republicans scored huge gains in Pennsylvania. The GOP won five U.S. House seats, flipped control of the lower chamber in the state house, took over the governor’s office and sent Pat Toomey to the Senate to replace Democrat Arlen Specter.

That all happened in a state (sorry, commonwealth) that Barack Obama won by more than 10 points against Sen. John McCain in 2008.

It’s unlikely there’s a successful path to 270 electoral votes for President Obama in 2012 without Pennsylvania’s 20 votes among them.

A new Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday morning shows Pennsylvania voters approve of the job President Obama is doing, 51 percent to 44 percent. That marks his best approval rating in Pennsylvania since July 2009, and much of his rise is due to the return of independent voters to his corner.

In December, independent voters split, 41 percent to 42 percent, on the president’s handling of his job. Now they approve 50 percent to 46 percent.

One slight warning sign for Team Obama is the president’s re-elect number. When matched up against an unnamed Republican opponent, he wins 45 percent to 39 percent, but it’s always worth watching an incumbent whose re-elect number is below that magical 50 percent mark. Of course, once a name is attached to that Republican opponent and the Obama campaign spends hundreds of millions to define him or her, those numbers are likely to shift.

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