House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., holds a copy of his budget proposal “The Path to Prosperity.” Photo by Bill Clark/Roll Call.
If you weren’t paying close attention this week, you may have missed it. But make no mistake about it, this was the week that defined the contours of the political battle set to dominate the discourse for the next 19 months.
On the House floor Friday, Republicans will vote to pass a 2012 budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan’s, R-Wis., which seeks to cut government spending by more than $5 trillion over the next 10 years and fundamentally alter the way Medicare and Medicaid are administered in order to rein in the runaway costs in those entitlement programs.
Rep. Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, has been working toward this moment for most of his professional life, but it’s probably the Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House who are most excited about Friday’s vote. Much like Republicans used the stimulus, health care and cap and trade votes in their TV advertising last cycle, you can expect the national Democratic campaign committees to take to the airwaves hammering away at Republicans who vote for the budget.
“With Republicans in charge of the House, we are seeing what the Republican agenda is and seeing that and feeling that,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, at a roundtable with reporters Thursday.
Rep. Ryan took to Friday’s op-ed page of the Washington Post to begin pushing back on the Democratic portrayal of his plan as one that privatizes Medicare.
“The House Republican budget keeps America’s promises to seniors and those near retirement by making no changes to their current arrangements. It keeps America’s promises of health and retirement security for future generations by saving and strengthening our most important programs. And it keeps a promise that is implicit in our form of government: that a government instituted to secure our rights must be a limited government.
“That is why ‘The Path to Prosperity’ prevents spending and taxes from rising steadily to unprecedented levels, as they are currently projected to do. Doing otherwise would leave our children a nation that is less prosperous, less free and much deeper in debt.”
Just as he did with his speech on Wednesday, President Obama once again drew the contrast Thursday night at his campaign kickoff fund-raising events in Chicago, presenting what he sees as the choice in 2012. He said Republicans and Democrats agree on the need to cut the deficit and went on from there.
“But how we get there is important. And you’ve got right now one side that I believe is entirely sincere that says we no longer can afford to do big things in this country. We can’t afford to be compassionate.
“We can’t afford Medicare so let’s make sure that seniors get a voucher, and if the health insurance companies aren’t giving them full coverage or they can’t afford coverage with the voucher they get, tough luck, they’re on their own.
“It’s a vision that says we can’t afford to rebuild our roads and our bridges. We can’t afford high-speed rail. We can’t afford broadband lines into rural areas so that everybody can be a part of this new global community. We can’t afford to make sure the poor kid can go to college. We can’t afford health care for another 50 million people. That’s the choice they pose.”
And although it’s just getting started, New York Times columnist and PBS NewsHour colleague David Brooks is already declaring a winner.
“What’s going to happen is this: We’re going to raise the debt ceiling in a way that fudges the issues. Then we’re going to have an election featuring these rival viewpoints, and Obama will win easily.
“It doesn’t take a genius to see that Obama is very likely to be re-elected. Every few years, Republicans try to reform the welfare delivery systems to make them more market-like. Every few years, voters, even Republican voters, reject this. The situation today is slightly less hostile to these ideas, but not much.”
GRANITE STATE RALLY
April 18 may be the filing deadline for federal taxes, but that’s not stopping Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire from getting a jump start Friday with its third annual Taxpayer Tea Party rally at the Statehouse in Concord.
The event begins at 11:30 a.m. EDT and will feature speeches from four likely Republican presidential contenders: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Herman Cain and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.
“We have an all star lineup this year,” said Corey Lewandowski, the New Hampshire state director for AFP.
Lewandowski previewed the rally for the Morning Line and said attendees will be most interested to hear the candidates’ positions on reforming entitlements, reducing the debt and raising the debt ceiling.
Lewandowski said many Tea Party supporters are “purists” who do not want to see the debt limit increased, comparing it to “getting a larger credit card.”
As far as what the event means for 2012 hopefuls, Lewandowski said it’s important for candidates “to connect with voters at the grassroots level.” That’s especially true in New Hampshire, home to the nation’s first primary, which he called “a retail politics state.”
The upcoming presidential campaign will be the first since the rise of the Tea Party movement, but Lewandowski said the group would be more focused on driving the debate than lining up behind a particular candidate.
“I think what you will find with the upcoming cycle is the discussions will be much more focused on fiscal issues, not social issues,” Lewandowski said.
Friday’s rally isn’t the only big event for AFP-New Hampshire this month. On April 29, the group is sponsoring a presidential summit on spending and job creation. The five confirmed participants are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Pawlenty, Santorum, Cain and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
BORN IN THE U.S.A.
President Obama said Thursday if Donald Trump or any other potential Republican presidential candidate wants to continue spreading conspiracy theories about where he was born, then in the long run, it would end up doing the GOP more harm than good.
Mr. Obama made the comments in an interview with George Stephanopolous of ABC News.
“I think that over the last two-and-a-half years there’s been an effort to go at me in a way that is politically expedient in the short term for Republicans. But [it] creates, I think a problem for them when they want to actually run in a general election where most people feel pretty confident the President was born where he says he was, in Hawaii,” President Obama said.
Stephanopolous also asked the president if he agreed with former President George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, who has said the “birther” claims are hurting Republicans.
“The truth of the matter is that I think that the vast majority of Americans across the country — Democratic or Republican — really want this election to be about growing the economy, getting control of the deficit, preparing the future for our kids,” the president said. “And my suspicion is that anybody who is not addressing those questions…Is going to be in trouble. I think they may get a quick pop in the news. They may get a lot of attention. But ultimately, the American people understand this is a serious, sober time,” said the president.
Still, this is an issue that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. So long as there are potential GOP candidates who say they doubt the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate, those who have said they don’t question the document, like Romney and Pawlenty, will be forced to repeat their position on the matter.
For Romney, that’s time taken away from talking about his business background or his plan for creating jobs. In Pawlenty’s case, it’s that much less attention paid to his blue-collar background.
So while Trump may be happy to keep the “birther” issue alive, it’s a safe bet there are others in the Republican party who would prefer he changed the subject.
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