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Court Arguments, Budget Debate to Shape Presidential Campaign

President Obama; photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama waves to guests after speaking about gas prices and oil company tax breaks at the White House on Thursday. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

While no presidential primary contests were held this week, two key events from the last few days are shaping how the general election will be framed this fall: the Supreme Court arguments on the health reform law and a House vote on the GOP budget blueprint.

In a 228-to-191 vote with no Democratic support, Republicans in the House on Thursday approved a budget plan to cut $5.3 trillion over the next decade, almost exclusively through entitlement cuts and deep reductions in domestic spending.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, praised the proposal, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP chairman of the budget committee. “It’s a real pathway to prosperity, it makes the tough decisions, and puts us on a course that’s sustainable not just for our generation, but for our kids and our grandkids,” Rep. Boehner said on the House floor Thursday.

With Democrats in control of the Senate, the GOP budget appears to be headed nowhere fast. Despite those dim prospects, Democratic lawmakers intend to keep talking about the proposal as part of their 2012 election strategy.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement Thursday, “House Democratic candidates will make this election a referendum on the Republican budget that gives millionaires a $394,000 tax cut while costing seniors thousands of dollars more for Medicare and that gives oil companies a tax cut while giving middle class families a college tuition hike.”

The Democratic National Committee worked to tie GOP front-runner Mitt Romney to Rep. Ryan in a web video featuring some really bad singing with improvised lyrics to the tune of the Dean Martin classic “That’s Amore.”

Watch that here or below:

Attempts by Democrats to connect Romney and Ryan will get even easier, as the budget chairman is now expected to endorse the GOP front-runner. The move comes after Romney voiced support for Ryan’s budget, calling it a “bold and exciting effort.”

Politics aside, the likely lack of budget action from the Senate means it will probably be, as Stephen Dinan notes in The Washington Times, “the third straight year Congress will go without a full blueprint for taxes and spending.”

He quotes analysts and lawmakers who say the process is getting worse each year. From his story:

“It’s profoundly different,” said Steve Bell, senior director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, who as former longtime staff director for the Senate Budget Committee helped then-Chairman Pete V. Domenici craft budget after budget in past decades. “We actually passed budgets, and we actually went to conference, and we had reconciliation. What’s happened now — it’s kind of sad to see, really.”

Dinan closes his piece with something we’ve been hearing from sources on Capitol Hill in recent weeks: Some members feel enough pressure will build to get something done in a lame-duck session following the elections. On the table for the end of the year are “the need to pass annual spending bills and raise the debt limit coupled with a political desire to address the expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts and impending defense cuts,” Dinan writes.


The fate of the health care law will be determined Friday when the nine Supreme Court justices hold a behind-the-scenes vote, but it will be months before the decision is made public as opinions are written.

Until then, the candidates just have to wonder how important the law will be on the campaign trail. For Romney, his plan in Massachusetts has been a central point of criticism from his GOP rivals.

On Thursday, Judy Woodruff talked with the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner and the Boston Globe’s Brian Mooney about how the health care issue has played on the campaign trail this year.

So, was Romney’s plan a blueprint for the Obama administration’s law, as the president’s allies suggest?

“[T]he key elements, the innovations, are basically the ones that were launched in Massachusetts back in 2006,” Mooney said.

As Mooney explained, many of the elements in Romney’s plan were embraced by Republicans before the administration’s plan took shape.

Gardner noted that there is “a fairly universal view that the arguments didn’t feel like they went very well for the Democratic side this week,” adding, “[C]ertainly people are starting to think much more about the possibility of the court actually overturning this.”

Watch the segment here or below.


  • Romney leads Rick Santorum 40 percent to 33 percent in Wisconsin, according to a new NBC-Marist poll.
  • The Washington Post notes that Romney is ready to burnish his foreign policy credentials.
  • Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., sent a fundraising plea to President Obama’s supporters Thursday warning that Republican super PACs are intent on “swiftboating” the president in the same way he was targeted during the 2004 presidential campaign.
  • Former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, talked about Romney at a fundraiser with Vice President Joe Biden Thursday. “I was governor with Mitt Romney,” Doyle said, according to a pool report. “He was the kind of Republican governor that when Democrats would talk about, ‘What Republicans can we get to work together on this?’ At top of the list was always Mitt Romney!…Now we have seen him become as extreme as Rick Santorum.”
  • Lobbyists like Romney.
  • Santorum has been sending out fundraising emails each day ahead of the end of the first quarter on Saturday. In his email Thursday, he urged supporters to open their wallets: “Mitt Romney and his liberal media machine would like nothing better than for us to go away. But conservatives know we can win — and across the country they are calling, emailing, and telling us they want us to redouble our efforts.”
  • The Democratic National Committee put up a web video responding to American Energy Alliance ads attacking the president. Watch it here.
  • The Associated Press reports the Obama re-election team has spent $135 million, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records.
  • Pro-Santorum super PAC the Red, White and Blue Fund has upped its buy in Wisconsin to $660,000 in Madison, Wausau and Lacrosse ahead of Tuesday’s primary.



Politics desk assistant Ryan C. Brooks (@ryancbrooks) has the NewsHour’s recommendations for top tweeters to add to your feed.

@wisvoter Craig Gilbert is the Washington bureau chief for the Milwaukee Journal and its online edition, JSOnline, where he writes the Wisconsin Voter blog. He’s a go-to guy for Wisconsin politics and got a Twitter shout-out from The New York Time’s Jeff Zeleny a week ago endorsing him as such. Great resource for Tuesday’s primary.

@markknoller Mark Knoller is the longtime CBS News White House correspondent. He’s personable on Twitter and updates from the press pool several times an hour, making him a one-man newswire on all things President Obama. He’s also a treasure trove of political trivia. This week he offered condolences for former press secretary Dana Perino’s dog, who passed away. Seemingly knows everyone and talks to them.

@heidimoore Heidi Moore is a fellow #pubmedia journalist who reports on Wall Street for Marketplace. She’s got a wry wit and gets in fights with Reuters’ @felixsalmon about Robert Zoellick’s World Bank successor. Tweets frequently and is often on top of breaking economic news.


  • NewsHour coordinating producer Linda Scott writes on the latest extension of the transportation bill as Congress leaves town for Easter recess.
  • Judy Woodruff (@judywoodruff) wants to hear from you with thoughts on this question: What about your experience with Millennials? Do you believe Millennials are more or less civically engaged than their older brothers and sisters, and their parents?
  • Our final wrap-up of the Supreme Court hearings on the health care reform law is here. You can find all of the NewsHour’s health care coverage archived here.
  • At the Wisconsin fundraiser, Vice President Biden also expressed support for the group hoping to oust Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who will find out Friday if the election is official. “I wish you luck on your recall efforts,” Biden said, drawing applause.
  • State Sen. Chap Petersen, a Northern Virginia Democrat known for his cheerful signs reading “Chap!” will run for governor in 2013.
  • The Washington Times publishes a primer on how conservatives can “survive” appearing on “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
  • The Democratic Governors Association raised about $8 million in the first three months of the year, ahead of where the group was during the 2008 cycle.
  • Saturday is the quarter-end fundraising deadline, so prepare to have your inbox flooded.
  • BuzzFeed posts some NSFW images of ads attacking Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, which never saw the light of day during the campaign.
  • McSweeneys has some fun at CNN’s expense.
  • On Sunday, don’t miss Gwen Ifill (@pbsgwen) on the new, hour-long “Face the Nation” on CBS. Some other people will be on, too.
  • The “PEEPBS NewsHour” diorama did not win. But you can see it, and all of the marshmallowy submissions to the Washington Post’s annual contest here.


All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama attends four campaign fundraisers: two in Burlington, Vt., at 1:15 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. and two in Portland, Maine, at 5:15 p.m. and 7:20 p.m.
  • Rick Santorum has four Wisconsin campaign events scheduled: a rally in Hudson at 12 p.m., a stop in Eau Claire at 3 p.m., a Chippewa Falls rally at 4 p.m. and a fish fry and bowling outing in Weston at 8 p.m.
  • Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have no public campaign events scheduled.
  • Newt Gingrich has three Wisconsin campaign events planned: a rally in Oshkosh at 12:45 p.m., a stop in Green Bay at 3:30 p.m. and a Green Bay rally at 5 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers and @suddinengel.

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