Obama Tells Congress to ‘Get it Done,’ but Will Lawmakers Listen?
President Obama holds a news conference Wednesday at the White House. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
The view down Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. Capitol to the White House might seem a bit longer than normal Thursday following the scolding President Obama gave Republican leaders for their approach to negotiations on raising the debt ceiling.
A combative president stood for more than an hour in the East Room of the White House Wednesday and instructed lawmakers “to do their job.”
“There’s no point in procrastinating. There’s no point in putting it off,” the president remarked of the looming deadline to raise the government’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit, which is projected to be surpassed on Aug. 2, setting up the possibility the country could default on some of its obligations.
The president said if lawmakers failed to achieve “substantial progress” by the end of this week, they should scrap their holiday recess planned for next week. “They’re in one week, they’re out one week. And then they’re saying, Obama has got to step in. You need to be here. I’ve been here. I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done,” said the president.
While drawing few lines in the sand, President Obama did assert that a final agreement would have to include “balanced solutions,” such as tax hikes on “millionaires and billionaires” plus eliminating tax breaks for oil companies and corporate jet owners. “I don’t think that’s real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that,” the president said.
Getting the GOP leadership in Congress to agree with him remains a tough sell.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a statement Thursday deriding the president’s comments for ignoring “legislative and economic reality.”
“The president is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the House. The votes simply aren’t there — and they aren’t going to be there, because the American people know tax hikes destroy jobs,” the speaker argued.
Whatever goodwill had been built up during Rep. Boehner and President Obama’s friendly golf outing two weekends ago seems to have disappeared following the collapse of the deficit talks led by Vice President Joe Biden and Wednesday’s verbal sparring. The president may have landed a few clean hits on his GOP opponents with his rhetorical jabs, but the question now is whether that will make it even tougher to get them back into the ring.
With the Treasury Department indicating Wednesday that the Aug. 2 deadline is unlikely to “move by more than a day or two — if at all,” time is running out to negotiate a difficult piece of legislation that needs to pass through both the House and the Senate and then the president’s desk in the next five weeks.
For for more analysis of the president’s news conference, check out the following write-ups in Thursday’s papers:
The Washington Post: “Obama uses combative new tone to retake reins on economic, foreign policy issues”
The New York Times: “In Deficit Plan, Taxes Must Rise, President Warns”
The Wall Street Journal: “Obama Targets Tax Breaks”
THE MONEY RACE
The second quarter race for campaign cash comes to a close Thursday, and early signs show Republican donors may be holding back just a bit when it comes to opening up their wallets.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake report Thursday morning on Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s fund-raising effort:
“Romney aides insist he will raise something short of $20 million, while his rivals argue that floating such a total is an attempt by the campaign to lower expectations. (Romney did raise more than $10 million in a single day last month.)
“Regardless of Romney’s final total, it’s clear from conversations with Republican operatives closely monitoring the race that fundraising has been difficult, and that the candidates’ totals will come nowhere near what the top GOP candidates brought in over a similar period in 2007.”
Melanie Mason and Kim Geiger of the Los Angeles Times also look at the last-minute dash for cash:
“The push to contribute by Thursday’s deadline has targeted every tier of donor, from big-ticket givers who are asked to pore through their Rolodexes and “bundle” contributions to small-dollar donors whose inboxes have been deluged daily with fundraising emails.”
HEALTH LAW UPHELD
In what represents just one more step in a process that is destined to end at the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled, 2-1, Wednesday that the individual mandate in President Obama’s health insurance reform legislation was constitutional.
The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that Congress, under its authority regulate interstate commerce, had the right to force Americans to purchase health insurance. One of the two judges ruling in favor of the Affordable Care Act was George W. Bush appointee and former Antonin Scalia law clerk Judge Jeffrey Sutton.
“The basic policy idea, for better or worse (and courts must assume better), is to compel individuals with the requisite income to pay now rather than later for health care,” Sutton wrote. “Faced with $43 billion in uncompensated care, Congress reasonably could require all covered individuals to pay for health care now so that money would be available later to pay for all care as the need arises. Call this mandate what you will–an affront to individual autonomy or an imperative of national health care–it meets the requirement of regulating activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.”
Judge James Graham dissented, saying that if the individual mandate was upheld, there would be no limit on what human activity Congress could regulate under its authority to regulate interstate commerce.
“The ultimate issue in this case is this: Does the notion of federalism still have vitality?” Graham wrote. “To approve the exercise of power would arm Congress with the authority to force individuals to do whatever it sees fit (within boundaries like the First Amendment and Due Process Clause), as long as the regulation concerns an activity or decision that, when aggregated, can be said to have some loose, but-for type of economic connection, which nearly all human activity does.”
It’s a win for President Obama, fellow Democrats and supporters of the law, but a small one. There are other challenges to the law working their way through the court system. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Thomas More Law Center, which filed the suit in this case, will appeal to the Supreme Court.
The 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., the 11th Circuit in Atlanta and the Washington, D.C., Circuit are also considering lawsuits that challenge the Affordable Care Act. The case before the 11th Circuit was brought by 26 states.
COLBERT ISN’T REALLY JOKING THIS TIME
Political satirist Stephen Colbert will again force serious people in Washington, D.C., to take him seriously when he appears at a Federal Election Commission hearing Thursday about his proposed political action committee that could have actual consequences for campaign finance rules.
Colbert wants to use his Comedy Central television show, “The Colbert Report,” to promote the work of his political action committee, which can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals and spend that money on “independent expenditures” in order to influence elections. This means that ads or other communications purchased with PAC money can’t be coordinated with a candidate’s campaign or political party.
This new type of political action committee, known as a Super PAC, is possible thanks to recent court rulings, including the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, that eliminated some significant campaign finance restrictions.
Watch Colbert talk with former FEC Chairman Trevor Potter about his strategy to form the Super PAC to take advantage of the new rulings here.
The FEC will decide whether Colbert talking about his PAC on a show owned by Viacom counts as a donation to the PAC. You can read Colbert’s request for a ruling from the FEC here.
As the Business Insider pointed out, the FEC ruling could have a big impact on Fox News if it rules against Colbert. Fox News contributors like Karl Rove and Sarah Palin have PACs they discuss on the air.
We’ll have more coverage of the Colbert hearing on the NewsHour website Thursday.
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