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Obama Pressures Republicans to Prevent Sequester

President Obama; photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Obama makes a statement during a news conference Tuesday. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

President Obama is challenging congressional Republicans to accept higher taxes in a renewed effort to stave off sequester cuts expected March 1.

On Tuesday, the president called on lawmakers to consider a short-term package of cuts and “tax reforms” to buy more time before the automatic cuts kick in. Giving scant detail, Mr. Obama said a plan he offered last year of spending cuts and closing tax loopholes is “still very much on the table.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney followed up by saying that the administration wants to end tax breaks on carried interest, corporate jets and oil companies, among others.

Republicans immediately rejected the comments as nothing more than a gimmick.

The backdrop of the president’s remarks to the White House press corps was a new Congressional Budget Office report projecting this fiscal year’s deficit would be $845 billion. It is the first deficit below $1 trillion since the 2008 financial crisis.

Mr. Obama outlined recent economic growth and said the gains are fragile: “It will stay that way as long as there aren’t any more self-inflicted wounds coming out of Washington. So let’s keep on chipping away at this problem together.”

As Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown notes in this story, Mr. Obama seems to have a formula these days: “Tout what he’s already done. Say the public’s in his corner. Demand Congress to do something. Lament Washington dysfunction. Lay out his own plan. Avoid details. Urge voters to keep up the pressure. Warn it won’t be easy. Bask in the applause.”

And as he continues a road show for his agenda, Republicans are wrestling with how to respond.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, laid out his vision for the coming year in Congress in an appearance before Senate Republicans. Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner got word that during the private session, Boehner “discussed how presenting a united front could maximize the GOP’s leverage in negotiating with the president and Senate Democrats.”

From her story:

“One of the things House Republicans are coming to grips with after two years is that while we may be the majority in the House, we are a minority in Washington,” Boehner’s prepared remarks stated. “What that means is we need to pick our battles wisely, and ‘fight smart.'”
“It means our focus should be on ‘winning the issues.’ We may not win the policy outcome every time, but there’s no reason we can’t win the debate every time,” the remarks continued.

The president will rally Senate Democrats Wednesday during their retreat, and Vice President Biden will do the same at the House Democrats’ retreat. Mr. Obama will visit with the House Democrats on Thursday.

On Tuesday’s NewsHour, Ray Suarez talked with Christi Parsons of the Tribune papers and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report to get more.

Parsons described how Mr. Obama is using his campaign apparatus for a three-tiered push on fiscal issues, gun control and immigration reform. “He’s probably as well-equipped as he could be at this point,” she said.

Walter pointed out that 96 percent of congressional Democrats sit in districts that Mr. Obama won, and 94 percent of Republicans hold seats in districts Mitt Romney captured. “There is no center of Congress anymore,” she said.

Watch the segment here or below:

Watch Mr. Obama’s remarks in full here or below.


The NewsHour took a look at a leaked Justice Department white paper offering the Obama administration’s legal reasoning for the U.S. government to kill American citizens abroad. Simply put, it outlines which citizens the U.S. may target in war — if they’re working for al-Qaida, can’t be captured and are an “imminent” threat — without first having a trial or legal review. The white paper is believed to be the overview for a more detailed, confidential memo that justified killing suspected al-Qaida operative and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Carney both defended the rationale Tuesday. For the Justice Department, the rules of war have changed, and the white paper speaks to that. The white paper was first published by NBC News this week; the New York Times’s Charlie Savage first reported on it in October 2011.

Civil liberties groups and others question whether the statements in the white paper constitute government overreach. News organizations roundly attacked the administration’s policy in columns Tuesday. Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic wrote, “It would be more honest to acknowledge that neither imminence nor infeasible capture are really required.” The New York Times editorial page, as well as Ron Fournier at National Journal and [David Kravetz of Wired][http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/02/legal-basis-killing-americans/] also criticized the government’s reasoning.

On the NewsHour, Gwen Ifill spoke with Matthew Waxman, professor at Columbia Law School and a fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations, and Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, about the language in the white paper and what it could mean for national security moving forward.

Waxman believes the white paper is a good starting point in defining Mr. Obama’s power to engage in targeted killing. “We should be concerned about the idea of the government being able to use lethal force against citizens, but we should also be concerned about the idea that terrorist leaders and plotters can plan attacks on the United States and the president would be powerless to take military action against them,” Waxman said.

Shamsi, part of the team representing al-Awlaki’s estate in court, feels the white paper gives the government too much power — something American citizens should be worried about.

She called the white paper “deeply chilling” and added that the lack of judicial review in these cases is a threat to the rights of Americans. Here’s the ACLU’s full statement on the white paper.

Watch the discussion here or below:


  • The Associated Press reports that the Postal Service will end Saturday mail delivery starting in August for a savings of about $2 billion a year. Its package delivery, a service that’s grown since 2010, won’t change.

  • Mr. Obama will nominate Sally Jewell of outdoor giant REI to be the next secretary of interior.

  • A new national survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling finds congressional Republicans with a slight uptick in popularity and voters saying they consider an NRA endorsement a negative thing.

  • A new ABC News poll shows 55 percent favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, with 41 percent opposed.

  • Virginia’s Republican House Speaker William Howell will use a procedural move to kill the Senate Republicans’ surprise redistricting plan that caused a kerfuffle during the legislative session.

  • Roll Call’s political team pulls the fundraisng files to deliver this nifty chart as your guide to the 2014 Senate battles.

  • Roll Call’s Amanda Becker looks at how Hill aides exploit the ethics committee’s rules to take longer work trips.

  • BuzzFeed debuts its new conversation series in Washington with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

  • The New York Times details a coming push from the Obama administration and congressional Democrats: End long voting lines.

  • Politico has the details of the behind-the-scenes struggle between Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and senior Senate Democrats as she readies to propose an assault weapons ban amid other gun violence prevention legislation. If she proposes it too early and asks the Judiciary Committee for approval, its passage there could jeopardize votes on broader gun legislation, John Bresnahan and Manu Raju report.

  • USA Today’s Paul Singer and a team of reporters survey members of Congress for this comprehensive accounting of which lawmakers own guns.

  • Conservative Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told reporters Tuesday the immigration debate has the wrong focus. “Anybody who’s clamoring for citizenship is looking for voters, and they’re looking for union members,” he said, BuzzFeed’s John Stanton reports.

  • Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., is so unhappy that “Lincoln” wrongly portrays his state’s congressmen voting against the passage of the 13th Amendment, he’s asked director Steven Spielberg to correct the film on DVD.

  • Republican State Rep. Dan Winslow, a former aide to Mitt Romney, may be running for the Massachusetts Senate seat, the Boston Globe reports.

  • The British House of Commons overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to allow gay marriage in the United Kingdom.

  • Newly christened Secretary of State John Kerry will sign his tweets “-JK.”

  • The memorials for the late Internet activist Aaron Schwartz have reached Capitol Hill and could lead to policy changes, the Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Goodbye, celebri-wonk speechwriter Jon Favreau. He plans to shift his attention from the administration to the silver screen next month.

  • Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel reported for jury duty but didn’t get selected.

  • Segregationist Strom Thurmond’s once-secret mixed-race daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, has died.

  • The actor burned in the on-stage stunt fire during a Lyric Opera of Chicago dress rehearsal this week is a great-grandson of former President Harry Truman.

  • The Washington Press Club Foundation holds its 69th annual Congressional Dinner on Wednesday night. Christina is a board member and co-chairman of the dinner committee. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, are the featured speakers, and Major Garrett of CBS News is the emcee. Follow along at #wpcfdinner. It will be taped by C-SPAN and broadcast at a later date.

  • Wednesday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA counts how states’ reliance on federal dollars has grown since 2008. Did you know Alaska, Wyoming, and Mississippi are most reliant on government money, and Nevada, Texas and Illinois are least reliant?


  • Writer George Saunders answered questions on his writing process, hobbies and authors who inspire him during an onilne live chat with the NewsHour. His favorite word? “Hugeroyaltycheck.”

  • Jeffrey Brown reported on a musical ensemble that brings Israelis, Palestinians and other Arab citizens together for a common goal of creativity.


Terence Burlij and Desk Assistant Rachel Wellford contributed to this report.

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

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