Tulips bloom in front of the Capitol. Photo by Bill Clark/Roll Call.
When House Republicans voted on their 2012 budget the Friday before the congressional recess, there figured to be plenty of stories over the course of the following two weeks about how the plan was being received in their home districts.
Judging by the headlines, if the second week is anything like the first, then some Republican lawmakers might be looking forward to their return trip to Washington.
Take, for instance, this Saturday’s headline in the Los Angeles Times: “House Republicans face backlash at home over budget plan”
Kathleen Hennessey of the Times reports:
“The signs over the last week have been mixed. Republicans heard their core supporters urging them to take strong stands and hold fast on the next big budget fight — the debate over raising the federal debt limit.
“In Illinois, freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger was cheered for his hard-line stance on that debate. ‘If it came to me to raise it today, I would vote no,’ he told a senior center 50 miles south of Chicago.
“But in many places, Democrats turned out to express their opposition, much as Republicans had done in the healthcare debate. In a Pennsylvania coal town, a man outraged by the GOP budget plan was escorted out of a town hall by police. In Wisconsin, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, the architect of the Republican plan, was booed in his own district as he outlined the proposal.”
The Los Angeles Times story came a day after a Washington Post report with this headline: “Republicans facing tough questions over Medicare overhaul in budget plan”
(Be sure to also check out Eli Saslow’s report in the Post that looks at how one of Rep. Ryan’s constituents views the GOP plan.)
The budget approved overwhelmingly by House Republicans (only four voted against it) would reform Medicare by providing future seniors subsidies to purchase private health insurance.
The existing system would remain in place for current Medicare beneficiaries and those close to retirement (55 and older).
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows two-thirds of Americans want the Medicare program to be left as is. But polls also reveal that a growing number of people see the federal budget deficit and debt as the most important issue facing the country.
The key for Republicans will be convincing the public that in order to tackle the debt and deficit, they have no choice but to reform Medicare and Medicaid.
The first Republican presidential debate is set for next week, but this could be the week that really starts to define the shape of the 2012 GOP field.
For one, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has said that he would make a decision on whether he was in or out by the end of April, giving him until Saturday to make good on his pledge.
Then you have outgoing Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who’s leaving his post next weekend and returning home to a group of supporters who’ve already begun laying the groundwork for a possible bid.
Of course, the middle part of the week will belong to real estate tycoon and reality TV star Donald Trump, who on Wednesday will make his first visit to New Hampshire — as a potential candidate — to meet with GOP officials, including Jack Kimball, the state’s Republican Party chairman.
On Friday, five potential contenders will appear at a presidential forum hosted by the New Hampshire chapter of Americans for Prosperity. The confirmed participants include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and businessman Herman Cain.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., spent most of his Sunday on the “Meet the Press” set talking Libya, and rightfully so, given his recent trip to the country.
But moderator David Gregory couldn’t let the 2008 Republican presidential nominee go without asking a question or two about the 2012 GOP field.
Asked whether he could endorse Trump, Sen. McCain said: “I think that Mr. Trump is having the time of his life. I congratulate him for getting all the attention that he’s getting.”
He also noted that other candidates shouldn’t expect his help, either, saying, “I am not endorsing any of them.”
But he did have some nice words for his 2008 running mate. “I would be very happy if Sarah Palin got in,” Sen. McCain said. “I really don’t know what she’s going to decide.”
Sen. McCain said he was confident the process would produce a nominee he could support. “I think we’ll have a good candidate at the end of the day.”
If you haven’t already read it, then be sure to check out Dan Balz’s look in Washington Post at Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and the reasons he’s hesitant to run in 2012.
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