President Obama delivers remarks as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., look on during Monday’s dinner with congressional leaders. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
At Monday’s previously scheduled White House dinner with congressional leaders, committee chairs and ranking members of both parties, President Obama highlighted the sense of American unity surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden and appealed to the lawmakers for more bipartisan action moving forward.
“I think we experienced the same sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for, and what we can achieve, that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics,” President Obama said.
“It is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face,” he later added.
President Obama and his political handlers are carefully calibrating how to maximize the political benefit from the successful operation to kill bin Laden without seeming to be politicizing a presidential matter of national security.
Positioning himself above the partisan fray with an eye toward wooing back those critical independent voters has been one of President Obama’s key political objectives in the run-up to the 2012 election.
In addition to offering up coveted details about the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, the White House also announced that the president will make a high profile trip to Ground Zero on Thursday, which will, no doubt, emotionally punctuate the dramatic events of the week.
The White House may also decide to have the president sit down for a television interview in which he’ll recount the tension filled moments in the situation room as the operation was unfolding.
It’s a fine line for the president to walk, making sure he doesn’t look overtly political as he takes this victory lap. But it’s one with potential near-term payoff in the polls.
ABC News polling analyst Gary Langer takes a look at the impact of similar high profile events on presidential approval.
And check out this chart from Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies.
“Presidents have traditionally seen sharp increases in their approval ratings at times of international crises, diplomatic events and military operations,” writes Marjorie Connelly of the New York Times.
BIPARTISANSHIP, WE HARDLY KNEW YOU?
The news of bin Laden’s death rekindled the spirit of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill Monday.
But Tuesday is a new day, and judging by the floor schedule in the House, that mood doesn’t look like it will last.
Lawmakers are expected to debate a measure that would repeal funding to establish exchanges in the health care overhaul enacted by Democrats last year.
POLITICO’s Jake Sherman and Manu Raju report that the GOP attempt to roll back part of the health care law is just one sign that the bin Laden news has failed to blunt the political warfare on Capitol Hill.
“The failure of congressional leaders to alter their agendas even in the aftermath of the most significant achievement in the 10-year war on terror is the clearest sign yet that the two parties on Capitol Hill have concluded that the economy and the budget — not foreign policy matters — will still determine next year’s election. But by snapping so quickly back to partisan warfare when the rest of the country is still waving flags and celebrating, Congress also risks showing, once again, why voters have such a low opinion of Capitol Hill.”
The bipartisan spirit may not be completely lost, however, as the Senate is expected to take up as early as Tuesday a resolution commending U.S. forces and the intelligence community for their actions in bringing about the death of bin Laden.
DELAYING THE DEBT LIMIT
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner informed congressional leaders Monday that he could buy them a few extra weeks to reach an agreement on raising the nation’s borrowing limit.
With the country set to hit its $14.3 trillion debt limit May 16, Geithner wrote in a letter that the Treasury Department is preparing to take “extraordinary measures” this week to ensure the country does not default on its obligations.
Those maneuvers include halting the sale of Treasury securities that help state and local governments support their own sale of tax-exempt bonds and delaying investments to government employee and retiree pension funds.
Geithner said lawmakers now have until Aug. 2 to negotiate a deal, nearly a month longer than the previous deadline, because of larger than projected tax receipts.
Republicans and even some Democrats on Capitol Hill have said any vote to raise the debt ceiling should have spending cuts attached to it.
Geithner pushed back on linking the two actions Monday. “I want to emphasize that, contrary to a common misperception, the debt limit has never served as a constraint on future spending, nor would refusing to increase the debt limit reduce the obligations the country has already incurred,” Geithner wrote.
Geithner also reminded lawmakers of his earlier statement that a default on the country’s obligations “would have a catastrophic economic impact that would be felt by every American.”
The debate over the debt limit is expected to begin in earnest this week as Congress gets back to work following a two-week recess.
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