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Obama Has a Full Plate Ahead of News Conference

President Obama will take questions from the press Friday. Getty Images.

The Morning Line

When President Obama takes the podium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at 12:30 pm ET to take questions from the press, he does so with a great many unresolved issues on his plate.

“Every single thing that comes to you when you are president of the United States is monstrously difficult,” said former White House adviser David Axelrod on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Friday.

The president may be feeling that more keenly today than most days.

In an unusual move, the White House formally advised the press about the news conference the night before and did so with a specific issue area attached to it.

“The president holds a news conference about rising energy prices among other issues,” reads the White House guidance.

Of course, news conferences have a funny way of not being about the president’s (this one or any of his predecessors) desired topic.

Certainly, the president is keen to talk about rising gas prices heading into the weekend as families hit the road. His comments will come after a week of stepped up pressure from House and Senate Republicans on gas prices. The White House has made clear that the president doesn’t intend to announce a plan at this time to tap the strategic petroleum reserve to help bring down prices.

In addition to the skyrocketing gas prices (and the accompanying falling stock market), President Obama will likely be asked about his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, who declared that Moammar Gadhafi will be the likely winner in Libya; his larger vision of the Middle East and his reluctance to act unilaterally in Libya; the apparent stalemate in budget negotiations between Capitol Hill and the White House; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s end run around the Democratic state senators and their allies in the labor community; the virtues (or lack thereof) of federally funded public radio; and perhaps his thoughts on congressional hearings focused on the radicalization inside the Muslim American community.

If President Obama sticks true to form, he’ll likely provide answers that beg more questions than bring resolution to the myriad issues reaching a boiling point before him.

A THOUSAND CUTS

House Republicans are drafting another short-term measure that will fund the government for three weeks while cutting $6 billion from spending, an acknowledgment that the House, Senate and White House are unlikely to reach consensus on a longer-term agreement before March 18, when the current funding scheme expires.

Although he hasn’t seen a draft, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, told the Hill newspaper that the bill likely wouldn’t include more controversial cuts to programs like Planned Parenthood or public broadcasting.

On the Senate side, a group of 10 Republican Senators wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowing to block any legislation that doesn’t address government debt and spending. Earlier this week the Senate rejected the House Republican measure that would cut $57 billion and a Democratic alternative that would cut $9 billion, marking a new round of negotiations.

“We’re telling Sen. Reid that we’ll object to any legislation that fails to directly address meaningful spending cuts. If Reid agrees to dedicate significant floor time to debate spending and debt well in advance of the federal government reaching our statutorily-mandated debt limit, then we’ll withhold our objection,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said in a statement.

Read the letter here.

The letter also mentions that the federal government is approaching its $14.3 trillion debt limit — not extending the limit could cause “catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades,” according to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Republicans who are set on spending cuts could use that warning as another “must pass” issue to extract more concessions from Democrats.

The current drip, drip, drip of spending cuts and short-term government funding will net $10 billion in cuts if the new three-week plan goes through. That situation seems to be fine with Republicans, who haven’t complained much about the series of short-term measures while they push for big cuts to domestic spending over the rest of the fiscal year. Both Sen. Reid and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., have railed against the process as bad governance, and the White House has signaled that one more short-term continuing resolution would be the last one President Obama would likely sign.

REP. GIFFORDS TO ATTEND SHUTTLE LAUNCH

In advance of a planned press briefing by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ medical team in Houston later Friday, her staff put out word that Rep. Giffords plans to attend the April 19 shuttle launch in Florida to watch her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, fly one of the final space shuttle missions to space.

It has only been nine weeks since the Arizona congresswoman was shot in the head outside a grocery store in Tucson.

From Reuters:

“The plan is for her to attend,” said C.J. Karamargin, the Arizona Democrat’s spokesman, adding that changes in her medical condition and other factors ultimately will determine whether Giffords is present.

“That it is a goal that we are working toward, and we certainly hope that she’ll be there.”

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