Archivi tag: White House
Critics see budget debate as a failure of leadership
Debt ceiling debate promises more Obama intervention
Fresh off a White House-brokered budget deal, President Barack Obama’s reelection team hopes his intervention can lure back the moderate and independent voters who will be crucial to winning in 2012.
The president’s campaign strategists have latched onto voters’ distaste for partisan bickering, selling his role in the negotiations as evidence of a leadership style that can fix a broken political system and bring the parties together.
“Compromise … cannot be a dirty word,” top Obama adviser David Plouffe told NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” saying he hoped this would be a model for future dealings with the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.
But critics are not convinced. They say Obama’s accommodation of Republicans was forced upon the White House by Democratic losses in 2010, and those very losses underscore a lack of leadership from within the White House that will matter more to voters in 2012.
Voters dumped many Democratic lawmakers in the 2010 midterm elections and sent a message that government was trying to do too much and Obama was too liberal, according to research by Third Way, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.
“Obama, by trying to be the grand conciliator … shows he is heeding that call,” said Third Way’s Ryan McConaghy. “Elections are decided in the middle. … There is a real battle to be won and that is the battle of reasonableness.”
A Gallup poll before Friday’s budget deal found that 58 percent of Americans favored a compromise that averted a shutdown of the government, even if this meant giving ground on issues in the budget they personally felt strongly about.
Voters will get plenty more give and take in the months ahead, as Obama navigates a divided Congress grappling with next year’s budget and raising the country’s debt ceiling, which Republicans say they won’t do without agreement on even more spending cuts.
The government could hit the current $14.3 trillion limit on its borrowing authority by mid-May and will need Congress to approve another increase or risk defaulting and sparking a debt crisis.
CRITICS SEE WEAK LEADER
The White House says Obama will continue to seek common ground with Republicans on those issues. And he will lay out a plan to tackle the deficit over the long term in a speech in Washington on Wednesday.
While the White House portrays Obama as a unifier operating above party politics, critics see the president trying to make a virtue of necessity. The real issue, they argue, is about leadership that is not coming from the Oval Office.
Michael Barone, resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said the White House was trying to make the best of a bad situation by selling Obama’s intervention in last week’s budget showdown as a president mediating between ideologues.
“Voters may feel comfortable with that … but I don’t see this as the main problem,” said Barone. “The strong leadership thing at this point is the problem for him,” he said, arguing that Obama had sat back while Congress thrashed out the deal.
Obama formally declared himself a candidate for reelection on April 4. While the Republican field lacks a clear
front-runner, Obama will still face a challenge in recreating a coalition of moderate and independent voters and the highly energized grass-root activists who swept him into the White House in 2008.
This block frayed in the 2010 midterm elections, when Democrats lost control of the House and saw their weight
reduced in the Senate.
Republicans have been energized by support from the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement as well as social
conservatives, who pushed to exclude taxpayer support for abortion from this year’s budget.
But Obama, taking a traditional Democratic stance, beat off efforts to control birth control funding to the Planned
Parenthood family planning organization.
Plouffe maintained that line on Sunday. He also took a traditional Democratic line when he criticized a Republican
proposal to tame the long-term U.S. deficit, saying it put an unfair burden on old and poor Americans while supporting tax breaks for the country’s wealthy.
Obama’s comments set the stage for an attempt to blame Republicans should congressional negotiations collapse and the U.S. government run out of cash when a short-term measure expires on April 8.
“We know that a compromise is within reach. And we also know that if these budget negotiations break down, it could shut down the government and jeopardize our economic recovery,” Obama said at a UPS shipping facility in Landover, Maryland.
Obama weighed in at a sensitive time in the negotiations.
The talks could still fall apart, but neither party is eager to cause a government shutdown that could lead to thousands of layoffs when voters are nervous about the shaky economic recovery and rising gas prices brought on by unrest in the Middle East.
Both sides are believed to have tentatively agreed to $33 billion in cuts but are haggling over where the budget knife should fall.
A $33 billion cut would represent a big victory for Republicans, as Obama had initially proposed a budget that would have increased spending by $41 billion but was never enacted.
But newly elected Tea Party conservatives in the House of Representatives want deeper cuts, presenting a challenge to House Speaker John Boehner.
And this is just for the budget for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. A bigger battle may be looming for the 2012 fiscal budget with many lawmakers wanting to tackle big-ticket items like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Boehner said on Friday that a shutdown would undermine Republican goals to cut government spending and that he is not preparing for a shutdown.
“Let’s all be honest, if you shut the government down, it’ll end up costing more than you save because you interrupt contracts. There are a lot of problems with the idea of shutting the government. It is not the goal. The goal is to cut spending,” Boehner told a news conference.
On Friday, several House Republicans said they would resist meeting Democrats in the middle on the size of the cut as they stood on the steps of the Senate. They want to stick to $61 billion in cuts that have already passed the House.
“Anything less than $61 billion is an insult to the problem,” said Republican Representative Paul Broun.
Congressional Democrats who saw Republicans punished by voters after a 1995 shutdown when Democrat Bill Clinton was president are eager to place the blame on Republicans this year.
Until Friday, Obama had largely resisted weighing in on the battle.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama chose to do so because a Labor Department report showed a slight decline in the U.S. jobless rate to 8.8 percent and he felt it important to comment on the possibility of a shutdown that he believes could hinder the fragile recovery.
Carney said Obama agrees on the need to cut spending and the $1.4 trillion deficit but wants to do it in a responsible way that protects spending for education, infrastructure and research and development.
He said the two sides appeared to be only a few billion dollars apart.
Democratic and Republican staffers were expected to work through the weekend to lay the legislative groundwork for the deal.