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Chambliss’ Hole-in-One Puts Obama in Play on Budget Talks

photo by Dennis Brack/Getty ImagesPresident Obama plays golf;

From left, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., President Obama and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., play golf Monday. Photo by Dennis Brack/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The White House says President Barack Obama is “willing to try anything” to work with Republicans to find a solution to the nation’s fiscal problems.

Monday, that meant venturing out to Andrews Air Force Base on a drizzly day in Washington to hit the links. Instead, one of the Republicans joining him scored a hole-in-one on the par-3 11th hole.

Is it a metaphor for how the president negotiates with Congress?

Speaking to reporters Monday night, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said he told Mr. Obama, “[S]ince I made a hole-in-one, he ought to give us everything we want on entitlement reform.”

Also in the foursome were Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado. Udall and Corker are ranked by Golf Digest as the first and second-best golfers in Congress. Chambliss is ranked sixth-best. The Republicans faced off against the Democrats on Monday.

White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted the agenda was nothing more than bipartisan socializing so that Mr. Obama could “see if he can find some common ground on some of the challenges that confront us.”

The Associated Press set the scene:

The foursome played under overcast skies that seemed to threaten rain that never came. Their game was cut short on the 15th hole so the senators could get back for a vote to allow states to tax Internet sales. The casually-dressed lawmakers had to rush in and shout their votes from the Senate’s cloakroom since they did not have time to put on ties that are required in the chamber.

Corker said in a statement, “[A]nytime you can get the president’s ear for a few hours, I think that’s a good thing,” the Washington Post reported.

The golf trip was part of a months-long charm offensive — Mr. Obama has dined with senators in and out of the White House, visited Capitol Hill, and he frequently talks with them on the phone.

Budget negotiations remain stalled even as both chambers have passed 10-year spending blueprints.

The president is hitting the road Thursday to sell his own vision for how the government should invest, a plan that aims to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.

Carney noted that Mr. Obama has not shifted his philosophy — which has irked his fellow Democrats — that his proposals mean “some difficult choices by everyone.”

For Republicans, the option on the table is raising revenue, a plan dubbed a “non-starter” on the Hill.

With other big items on the agenda — immigration reform legislation getting its first real examination this week, the gun control package that could be revived in coming weeks — the White House is considering a handful of senators up for grabs on a variety of issues.

Reporters peppered Carney with questions Monday as his boss was on the course. Is golf really the best medium for this task?

Well, he’s willing to try anything. (Laughter.) And whether it’s a conversation on the phone, or a meeting in the Oval Office, or dinner at a restaurant, or dinner at the residence, he’s going to have the same kinds of conversations and test the theory that this kind of engagement can help produce the results that everybody in this country — or at least the majority of the people in this country who care about and pay attention to these issues wants to see.

I get asked a lot about inside game, outside game. He has long engaged in both. He’s having one-on-one conversations, group conversations, meals, golf games, hard-headed negotiations with legislators, and he is going out to the country and talking to regular folks out there about the issues that matter to them and about the need for them to speak up and engage in a process to demand that Congress take action and do the most — do the responsible thing to help the economy grow to help the middle class.

Those conversations with “regular folks,” in fact, will return to the president’s agenda this week. At Manor New Tech High School outside of Austin on Thursday, Mr. Obama will reprise his State of the Union message about middle-class jobs.

At the same time, the president’s former re-election campaign is keeping up its efforts to engage supporters via Organizing for Action.

On a conference call Monday, the group’s executive director, Jon Carson, told reporters that OFA will deliver a petition to Congress this week signed by more than 1 million people who want to see the immigration bill passed. OFA also has staffed up, with 19 coordinators working with volunteers in the field. The aim is to keep up pressure on (mostly) Republican lawmakers to support Mr. Obama’s agenda.

Those efforts, and the president’s outreach, will surely continue as Congress gears back up for this busy work period. But that’s a long way from ensuring the president’s goals translate to legislation that reaches his desk.


Amendments to the comprehensive immigration reform bill proposed by the Gang of Eight are due to Congress Tuesday afternoon, giving legislation-watchers a better sense of which provisions will shape the debate around the bill and what may derail it. Republicans plan to introduce many amendments that could change the final plan.

“They’ll be looking to throw obstacles in the way of the process and propose poison pills in order to frame the debate for the far right,” said Frank Sharry of pro-reform group America’s Voice in this New York Times story.

The amendments come at the same time as a conservative study attacks the bill for its fiscal reasoning.

The think tank Heritage Foundation estimates the pathway to citizenship provisions in the current comprehensive immigration proposal would cause a fiscal deficit of $6 trillion as immigrants become eligible for federal benefits and pay less in taxes than what the government will spend. The deficit will hurt the national debt or cause the public to pay more taxes, the study concludes.

Heritage President Jim DeMint teamed up with senior research fellow Robert Rector to pen this Washington Post op-ed Tuesday:

A properly structured lawful immigration system holds the potential to drive positive economic growth and job creation. But amnesty for those here unlawfully is not necessary to capture those benefits.

We estimate that when those who broke our laws to come here start having access to the same benefits as citizens do — as is called for by the Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill — the average unlawful immigrant household will receive nearly $3 in benefits for every dollar in taxes paid.

Instead of the comprehensive reform the Gang of Eight seeks, DeMint and Rector advocate for a piece-by-piece legislative approach.

David Nakamura of the Washington Post analyzed where other conservatives fall — with Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and the group Tea Party Patriots on one side, yet many conservatives who back the bipartisan bill’s cosponsors on the other.

Nakamura reports: “Critics of the Heritage Foundation’s methodology said it failed to account for social mobility among Hispanics. The price tag estimated in the study also includes the costs of educating and providing services to immigrants’ U.S.-born children, but as citizens they are entitled to those benefits regardless of whether the bill passes Congress.”

Public opinion isn’t on Heritage’s side. A poll commissioned by the liberal labor union SEIU and conducted by Hart Research Associates found 73 percent of Americans favor the current massive proposal. That includes 66 percent of Republicans, according to an SEIU press release.

A majority of 74 percent also voiced support for the pathway to citizenship section of the bill, when asked by the surveyors if they supported “allowing illegal immigrants who pay taxes, learn English and pass a background check to remain in the U.S.”

As the political divides take shape and fiscal conservatives balk on the bill, some social conservatives, including the evangelical community, continue to support it. The Evangelical Immigration Table announced its “Pray for Reform” campaign this week, calling on Christians to pray for 92 days for a legislative outcome that “upholds our values of human dignity, family unity and respect for the rule of law.”

All this comes as Vice President Joe Biden told faith leaders Monday that the administration will wait for the immigration debate to play out before making another push on gun control measures.


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Desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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