Friday, April 08, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: 12 Hours to Shutdown

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Friday, April 8, 2011

 Today In Washington

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama has cleared his schedule to focus on the budget impasse. He’s canceled a trip to Indianapolis today to promote his energy ideas and postponed a family outing to Williamsburg planned for tomorrow.

THE HOUSE: Convened at 10 and at noon and will begin debating whether to block the FCC from implementing its network neutrality regulations. After passing that bill by mid-afternoon, lawmakers will be staying close to the Capitol indefinitely while waiting announcement of either a deal or a shutdown.

THE SENATE: Convened at 11 for a day of speechmaking and quorum calls while waiting for word on the budget. Democrats will caucus at 1.

THE END IS NEAR: The government’s starting to shut down — or slow down, more accurately.

And the partisan spin machines are starting to speed up, quickly. After one more intense round of talks broke up at 3 this morning, without any deal on how to run the government for the next 25 weeks, the top Republicans and Democrats arrived at the Capitol this morning sounding beyond pessimistic. They were openly angry at one another — and they were test-marketing sound bites for blaming the other side for a shutdown.

Reid said every issue had been resolved except for one — because neither he nor Obama is willing to accede to a Republican demand that federal aid to Planned Parenthood be cut off. And fellow Democrats started flocking to the cameras to deride the GOP for bringing the government to its knees entirely because Republicans aren't not getting their way in their “campaign against women’s health.”

Boehner said that was simply not true. “The reason no agreement has been reached in bipartisan budget talks is over the need for real, substantial spending cuts,” he said. “The American people want to cut spending to help the private sector create jobs — and the Democrats who run Washington don’t.”

IT ALL MATTERS: Of course, the standoff isn’t just over abortion-rights policy. And it exclusively over money, either. The impasses is about power — because whichever side blinks first now will not only be labeled the loser of this relatively minor kerfuffle (the fight’s over a cut of less than 1 percent of the overall budget), but will also start out as the underdog in the much more consequential budget fights that will dominate the rest of the year — over the future of health care entitlements, the tax code and the federal debt limit.

What does that mean for Boehner? He must emerge from this — his enormously tough first test as Speaker — with his reputations intact as both a steel-eyed negotiator and a true-blue conservative believer. Even if an eventual deal gets a narrow majority of the majority in the House, he could see a rising rebellion in the ranks unless he’s assuaged not only the freshmen and the tea partiers but also the social conservatives — as the Planned Parenthood stand makes clear.

What does it mean for Reid and Obama? They must be able to convince the liberal Democratic base that they didn’t give away the store on their priorities — and at the same time convince centrists and independents that they really were willing to go more than halfway to get their best compromise.

OH, RIGHT, THE MONEY: Neither side was willing to confirm word that Republicans had succeeded in pushing the total for cuts up to $35 billion. Both sides did confirm, though, that the second-to-last policy rider in dispute, which would have curbed EPA clean air regulations, had been dropped at the insistence of the Democrats.

The breach was the latest downward surge in the budgetary roller coaster ride. As of 10 last night, Reid and Boehner issued an unusually rare joint statement pledging their shared commitment to finding a middle ground. But the people they left behind could not get there: White House legislative affairs chief Rob Nabors, Boehner chief of staff Barry Jackson, Reid chief of staff David Krone and the number-crunching clerks of the House and Senate appropriations panels.

DAY (NOT) AT THE MUSEUM: Obama will officially order federal agencies to start implementing their shutdown plans any minute now. That mainly means notifying employees about whether they have been tapped to keep working or are being furloughed.

The consequences of a shutdown Saturday and Sunday are relatively minor, because few federal offices are open on the weekend. The big loser would be postcard Washington; tens of thousands of spring-breaking tourists aren’t likely to react well if they find themselves standing in the rain tomorrow morning outside the locked doors of the Smithsonian’s many museums.

And if the impasse lasts until Monday, a back-of-the-envelope calculation is that fully 60 percent of the federal workforce will actually be coming to work, because the agencies are taking a very expansive view of what the law means when it says only efforts to preserve life or property can continue at agencies that don’t have permission from Congress to spend money.

And — while there’s been a lot of talk about how the 800,000 people being furloughed can’t use their BlackBerries, can’t volunteer and can't even talk to their friends who are on the job — plenty of them will be taking the theoretical risk of prosecution by doing their jobs from home, anyway.

For the bureaucrats who live in the capital city, that means one annoyance above all others: As a consequence of the federal hold on the municipal budget, there would be no D.C. trash collection for the first week of the shutdown (after which the mess would be considered a public safety emergency). An online crusade was launched this morning in protest: People say they’ll cart their garbage to the Capitol Hill rowhouse where Boehner rents an apartment.

THE TO-WAIT LIST: In addition to all the lawmaker-support services that are being powered down this afternoon, the public work of Congress is expected to slow to a crawl if the standoff continues for more than a couple of days. Senate Commerce cited the uncertainty about the shutdown this morning when it scrapped a wide-ranging markup set for Tuesday — on bills from pipeline safety to coral reef protection — and several more such cancellations are expected this afternoon. Politically, it would be absurd for lawmakers to be seen debating anything else but a spending bill until the impasse is broken.

Lawmakers and their aides, meanwhile, are increasingly worried what their short-term layoff decisions will mean over the long term. Tea party groups and other conservatives are sure to make the argument that whatever aides are sent home as “non-essential” in the coming days should be labeled that way permanently — and that the legislative branch should use the Solomonic decisions that are being made now as a template for a permanent haircut for congressional overhead.

And, even though Democrats say they want to find retroactive pay for the staffers who aren’t labeled essential during a shutdown, that’s not going to go anywhere with the GOP. Once this impasse is resolved, the last thing Republicans will want to do at the start of the next budget-cutting crusade is compensate pay for people (either at the Capitol or the agencies) for work they didn't do.

IN CASE ANYONE ASKS: The one-week spending bill that the House passed yesterday is a non-starter in the Senate, where Democrats are scoffing at its call for $12 billion in cuts over seven days and restrictions on using local tax dollars to allow women in D.C. to have abortions. (Republicans don’t mention those provisions as often as the language fully funding the Pentagon for the rest of this fiscal year.) On the House vote yesterday, just six Republicans voted “no,” while 15 Democrats voted “yes.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY:  Freshman GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and seventh-term Democratic Rep. David Wu of Oregon were both born 56 years ago.

— David Hawkings, editor

Become a Facebook fan at facebook.com/DavidHawkingsDC. Or follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/davidhawkings.

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Editor's Picks From The CQ Roll Call Newsroom

Boehner Nears a Career-Defining Point (CQ Today)

One of two narratives will emerge for the Speaker. » View full article

List of Capitol Complex Closures Released (Roll Call)

Forget about the gift shop — and lots of other things. » View full article

Video: Tourists React to Potential Government Shutdown (Roll Call)

Visitors talk about whom they would blame for a shutdown and what it would mean for their weekend plans. » View full article

House Democrats Want Retroactive Pay for Furloughed Aides (Roll Call)

A top aide said GOP leaders wouldn't address the matter unless the government actually shuts down. » View full article

Fiscal Fight Comes Down to Policy (CQ Today)

One thing is clear: Congressional fights this year will be about deep policy divisions as much as — if not more than — number-crunching and red ink. » View full article

Shutdowns of the Past (CQ Today)

On 17 occasions since September 1976, Congress has allowed appropriations to lapse. » View full article
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dailybriefing@cqrollcall.com

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Riders on the Storm

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Thursday, April 7, 2011

 Today In Washington

THE HOUSE: Convened at 10 and is on course toward party-line passage of legislation that would prevent a government shutdown for one week. Democrats say the bill stands no chance in the Senate, and Obama opposes it as well, because it would cut another $12 billion from current spending levels between now and next Friday.

To win support from the many Republicans who’d vowed to oppose a seventh CR, the bill includes a comprehensive defense appropriations package giving the Pentagon $516 billion for the next six months (including $158 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), about a 1 percent increase from current levels.

Before going home tonight the House may also pass bills blocking the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases and the FCC from implementing its “net neutrality” rules.

THE SENATE: Convened at 10 for another slow-going day on the small-business research bill, which continues to be the venue for debating such non-germane issues as whether to stop implementation of the health care overhaul.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The president has called Biden, Boehner and Reid back to the Oval Office at 1 for another meeting on the budget impasse.

Obama will then spend much of the afternoon with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. The two will initial a trade deal that the administration estimates will boost U.S. exports to Colombia by at least $1 billion a year. The required implementing legislation should win strong bipartisan majorities in Congress.

CRUNCH TIME: With 36 hours to the deadline, congressional and White House aides are doing what the president ordered last night: “pounding away at” a very slowly shrinking roster of policy riders that Republicans want in return for accepting only about $33 billion in spending cuts during the next six months.

How much to cut is essentially fixed at that number, because Obama has firmly made it his bottom line. That’s what the Speaker was hinting at this morning when he told ABC that he was “fighting for the largest number of spending cuts possible.” But Boehner’s team is having some success arguing that a bill can’t get through the House at that number unless the tea party conservatives can claim some victories on restricting the Obama agenda.

Some sort of language that would curb implementation of the health care overhaul, even narrowly and for only a few months, would probably do the trick — by getting a majority of the majority (121 Republicans) to vote for the bill in the House. That’s the only vote total that really matters in the days ahead, because it’s what’s necessary to ensure sufficient numbers of House Democrats and senators of both parties to get the legislation cleared.

Two other options for giving the GOP freshmen their pound of flesh are curbs on abortion (either government funding in D.C. or money for Planned Parenthood) and environmental regulation (EPA rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions). Reid, on the floor this morning, said Republican drives for those riders made him “not nearly as optimistic” about reaching a deal than he was last night.

BACKROOM BATTLING: Hill and White House aides worked through much of the night and were back at it this morning. Some of the less-contentious spending restrictions the House voted for six weeks ago have survived, most of the more controversial ones have been jettisoned — and some new ones have been added to the mix. A revival of school vouchers for D.C., the Speaker’s personal cause, may be worming its way into the accord. A late-starting conservative drive to restrict federal unions’ bargaining powers — a la Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana — appears to have been pushed off the table.

The vast majority of the horse-trading was being conducted by an especially small, and closed-mouthed, circle of staff — frustrating the hundreds of lobbyists who are being pressed hard by their clients to make sure their pet programs aren’t gutted in the coming days.

CLOSING TIME: The time has now passed for getting any grand bargain written into legislation and pushed through Congress by tomorrow night. So the government will be partly powered down at least for the weekend — unless Obama, Boehner and Reid can get to a handshake agreement by tomorrow afternoon. That would then be rewarded with quick and bipartisan action on a several-day CR that would keep federal operations humming until the big deal gets done.

In the meantime, how the Hill would handle a shutdown was becoming more clear. In addition to turning off the lights in the Capitol Visitors Center, the members’ gym would be closed and the elevator operators would be among those furloughed, some Capitol Police posts would be left unmanned — and senators’ ability to jawbone about the shutdown would be curbed because some of their TV studios would be shuttered.

How lawmakers are handling their furlough responsibilities is all over the place. Many veterans, who paid no political price for declaring all their aides “essential” during the 1995-96 shutdowns, are planning to do so again. So are lawmakers with safe seats. Chairman Darrell Issa, for example, declared on Twitter today that he’ll keep the entire House Oversight Committee staff on the job. “If gov’t shuts down, we won’t,” he said. “Accountability must continue.”

But many of the tea party freshmen, and lawmakers of both parties looking at tough re-election fights, are planning on ordering all their staff to put their BlackBerries in their desk drawers and go home after tomorrow night. And at least one member, freshman Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, promised to sort-of furlough himself — promising to give back his Senate salary during any shutdown.

POLL POSITION: The latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, out today, reveals a profound disagreement between the nation’s Republicans and Democrats over what their allies in Congress should do in the coming days. A lopsided 68 percent of Democrats want the leaders of their party to compromise more to resolve the spending impasse. But 56 percent of all Republicans — and 68 percent of tea party supporters — want GOP leaders to stick to their guns, even if it means there’s no deal.

For Obama and the Democrats, though, the most reassuring number may be this: 66 percent of political independents say they want GOP leaders in the House and Senate to compromise.

ACT II: Relatively overlooked in all the talk about the half-year budget impasse is the initial victory for the much more dramatic changes proposed by Paul Ryan for next year and beyond. His budget resolution was approved on a party-line vote by House Budget last night. And as a further reminder of just how much more dramatic the Ryan budget is, consider one number: $1.02 trillion. That’s how much discretionary spending it would allow in fiscal 2012 — $7 billion less than what would have been allowed under the House’s reach-for-the-sky spending package passed in February.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Bob Brady, Philadelphia’s Democratic chairman for the past 25 years and its congressman for almost half that time (66).

— David Hawkings, editor

Become a Facebook fan at facebook.com/DavidHawkingsDC. Or follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/davidhawkings.

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Editor's Picks From The CQ Roll Call Newsroom

Ryan's Blueprint Boosts Cut Talk (CQ Today)

The fiscal 2011 saga might only be a warm-up for a fiscal 2012 slugfest. » View full article

Lobbyists Get Busier as Shutdown Looms (Roll Call)

A shutdown adds some logistical twists, but the influence industry hasn't slowed down. » View full article

Colombia Deal Could Break Impasse (CQ Today)

Pacts with the Andean nation and South Korea are almost ready for Congress, and a Panama agreement isn't far behind. » View full article

Members Prepare to Lose Perks (Roll Call)

Life gets a lot less convenient on the Hill if the government shuts down Friday night. » View full article

Repeal of EPA Rules Unlikely (CQ Today)

Attempts to block the regulation of greenhouse gases don't have enough support to make it through the Senate. » View full article

No Such Thing as Off Year for Consultants (Roll Call)

National campaign advisers stay sharp with low-profile battles in odd-number years. » View full article
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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Party Like It's 1995

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

 Today In Washington

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama is waiting to call congressional leaders back to the White House until he hears there’s been sufficient progress overnight in the spending cut talks between Reid and Boehner.

If there’s no budget breakthrough, the president is headed out of town for the rest of the day. He’s supposed to be in the Philadelphia suburbs at 2 for another event to promote his energy agenda, meeting with workers at a branch of the Spanish wind turbine maker Gamesa Technology. Then he’s headed to New York to promote his education ideas in a speech at 6 to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

THE SENATE: Convened at 9:30 with plans to vote at 4 on seven amendments that have nothing to do with the pending bill, which would revamp a pair of small-business research programs. Four propose different levels of new restrictions on EPA regulation of carbon emissions. Another would end jobless benefits for millionaires. The others are GOP and Democratic alternatives for planning a consolidation of federal programs. All will need 60 votes for adoption.

THE HOUSE: Convenes at 10 and at noon will start debating Democratic amendments that would shoot holes in a separate GOP bill to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. They’ll all be rejected, and the vote passing the measure is expected by 7.

Members of the Budget Committee, though, will need to remain at the Capitol until after midnight to finish the marathon markup of Paul Ryan’s bold deficit reduction blueprint.

GROWNUP vs. GROWNUP: The federal government is now 60 hours (and $7 billion ) away from being partially shut down for the first time since the end of 1995.

This morning the talks remained firmly in the break-up-to-make-up phase, as the Speaker and the Senate majority leader each unleashed one more fusillade accusing the other side of responsibility for the brinkmanship – even after Schumer said that talks that lasted late into last night had yielded  “a glimmer of hope” for a deal by the end of today.

“The president is certainly entitled to disagree with our budget, but what exactly is his alternative?”  Boehner asked in a statement.

“Every time we agree to meet in the middle, they move where the middle is,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “The biggest gap in these negotiations isn’t between Republicans and Democrats. It’s between Republicans and Republicans. So the Speaker has a choice to make, and not much time to make it: He can either do what the tea party wants, or what the country needs.”

About the only thing both agreed on was that they did not appreciate the president’s call for all the parties to engage in an “adult conversation” — which struck both sides as ironic and unnecessarily pejorative, given how distant Obama has been from the issue for the past 10 weeks.

BOEHNER’S BILLIONS: At yesterday’s White House meeting, Boehner said he’d have trouble selling his caucus on anything less than $40 billion in cuts during the next six months — which was a breakthrough of sorts, because it was the first time he’s mentioned a specific level of cuts that might be acceptable to House Republicans below the $61 billion they all voted for back in February.

That surprised Hill Democrats, who have been working on the assumption that the final number really would be the $33 billion all sides seemed to accept last week. And Obama sounded firm that the figure was his bottom line.

And so the Speaker’s best option today seems to be trying to preserve as many of the House’s riders as possible in return for abandoning that push for the additional $7 billion.  If he can get even a few policy provisions, he will be compelled to go to his tea-party-infused caucus and tell them that its time to stop the applause and hoo-ahs at every mention of a shutdown — and start applauding for a level of cuts that would normally be viewed as a remarkable success for the GOP.

If he can get three out of five members of his rank and file to buy that argument and vote for the bill, it will pass — because Obama’s endorsement means it will get he support of two out of five House Democrats. And a growing majority of Senate Republicans are eager to vote for whatever deal they’re shown because they’re anxious get on to the bigger budget fight ahead — meaning the Senate absolutely will clear whatever the House sends its way.

NO ZOO FOR YOU: Even under the best of circumstances, it’s looking like it will take until Saturday night or Sunday to put the deal into legislative language and push it through. If a deal with obviously widespread support is announced — even by Friday — then a CR for a couple of days might be sped through Congress on a pair of voice votes, to allow time for the legislative niceties on the six-month package.

But if support for the big deal is too hard to gauge, that means at least a shutdown over the weekend. It would afford Washington-bureau TV crews plenty of visuals — of people being turned away from the museums on the Mall and the National Zoo — but not all that much in the way of disrupted federal services that Mr. and Mrs. America might notice. The real deadline, that means, has become next Monday morning, when passport and Medicare and Social Security and SBA and VA and farm subsidy offices across the country open for business.

Members of Congress, who were warned by their leaders a week ago not to make any irreversible travel plans for this weekend, will still be paid. And so will many if not most of their aides, because the law makes them essential if they are supporting lawmakers who are carrying out their essential duties — such as debating a bill to finance the government.

THE LONGEST DANCE: The House Budget markup that convened at 10:30 is going to last 14 hours longer — even though the outcome is certain.

All 22 Republicans are going to vote for Chairman Paul Ryan’s dramatic plan for starting to shrink the reach of health care entitlements during the next decade — willing to take that politically risky leap now, on a blueprint that doesn’t have the force of law, because they know they’ll probably have plenty of chances later to vote for or against deficit reduction plans that might actually become real. And all 16 Democrats will vote against it, because its Medicare and Medicaid proposals are an embarrassingly easy target for potshots.

Democrats will offer dozens of amendments challenging individual policy choices assumed by the GOP budget, and all will be rejected. Their senior member, Chris Van Hollen, is going to wait until next week’s floor debate to offer a full-on Democratic leadership alternative.

The most important Democratic congressional voice on the topic, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, is deriding Ryan’s plan as “partisan and ideological” because it doesn’t propose significant defense spending cuts or new taxes. Whatever the House does with Ryan’s budget in the next week, Conrad plans on waiting to write the Senate version until he and other members of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” come up with a plan that’s much more similar to the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission’s recommendations — which call for both tax increases and military spending cuts.

And the most important Democratic voice of all on the tropic, the president, plans to wait until the boundaries of the congressional debate are much more refined before joining the fray.

Ryan felt confident enough about his budget’s early prospects among his fellow Republicans that he did minimal lobbying at the start of the week. Between outlining the plan from Fox’s D.C. studios on Sunday and unveiling it at the Capitol on Tuesday, he raced back home to Wisconsin to meet an important family obligation: Helping one of his Cub Scout sons fine-tune his Pinewood Derby entry.

TO SUMMARIZE: The Ryan budget would cut spending by $6.2 trillion over 10 years (when compared to Obama’s plan), and reduce cumulative deficits by $4.4 trillion. But, when compared to CBO’s baseline, it would cut spending by $5.8 trillion and  reduce cumulative deficits by only $1.65 trillion — with most of the difference resulting from the fact that Ryan assumes an overhaul of the tax code and a preservation of the Bush tax cuts that would reduce revenue $4.2 trillion below the CBO baseline.

Turning Medicaid into a block grant to states would save $771 billion, while turning Medicare into a “premium support system” for persons currently younger than 55 (meaning the government would pay private insurers a fixed subsidy every year) would save just $30 billion in the next 10 years, with the bigger savings coming only after the new system fully kicks in.

TRAIL TIPS: (1) Debbie Wasserman Schultz will be the first incumbent member of Congress to also chair the Democratic National Committee since 1997, when Chris Dodd (then a Connecticut senator, now the movie industry’s top lobbyist) stepped aside after sharing the job for two years with Don Fowler. And nobody is sounding happier with the appointment  than Steve Israel of New York — who got the DCCC chairmanship that the Florida congresswoman initially coveted this year, and who’s never been all that comfortable having her as one of his principal deputies at the campaign office. But now Israel has a different challenge: He has to find a House colleague who’s willing to step into  Wasserman Schultz’s role as the DCCC’s director of the 2012 incumbent-retention efforts.

(2) Curt Weldon arrived in Tripoli this morning and says Qaddafi has invited him to a meeting this afternoon, where he’ll try to get the Libyan dictator to step down. It’s the first foray back into the public eye for the from congressman from suburban Philadelphia, who was defeated amid a whirl of ethical troubles in 2006 — just as he was poised to claim the top GOP seat on House Armed Services. His committee work took him to Libya to meet with Qaddafi twice in 2004 — “enough times to know that it will be very hard to simply bomb him into submission,” Weldon said in in New York Times op-ed today. He  asserts that the administration and Hill leaders were informed in advance of his efforts.

(3) Fresh from a week stoking the cause of the “birther” movement, Donald Trump is adding a handful of political trips to his spring calendar. He will address a South Florida Tea Party rally in Boca Raton on April 16 and the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner in Des Moines June 10. And later that month he’ll be at one of the traditional “Politics and Eggs” breakfasts in New Hampshire. To state the obvious, all three states have pivotal early nominating contests next year — and few people in Washington are taking the mogul seriously as a presidential candidate.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY:  Republican and increasingly likely presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (55); her fellow Minnesota House member Tim Walz (47); his fellow House Democrat Joe Courtney, whose district includes NCAA men’s basketball champion UConn (58).

— David Hawkings, editor

Become a Facebook fan at facebook.com/DavidHawkingsDC. Or follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/davidhawkings.

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Editor's Picks From The CQ Roll Call Newsroom

Is Fiscally Lean Politically Rash? (CQ Weekly)

Durbin says his participation in long-term budget talks is a way to get a liberal voice at the table. But what does it mean for his own future? » View full article

CR Challenge Gets Steeper Near the End (Roll Call)

The standoff was triggered late Monday night when Boehner proposed a one-week stopgap measure that would cut $6 billion from the budget while also funding the Pentagon through September. » View full article

Ryan's Budget Opens Debate on Major Issues (CQ Today)

The fiscal 2012 blueprint is the most sweeping statement of governing philosophy House Republicans have made since they took control in January. » View full article

Members to Limit Staff Furloughs (Roll Call)

Lawmakers have wide latitude to choose who is "essential" and who is "nonessential." » View full article

Stuart Rothenberg: Trump in 2012? Not Every Stupid Idea Is Funny (Roll Call)

A painfully honest appraisal of the celebrity businessman's prospects and of the Draft Trump movement. » View full article
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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: A Turn for the Worse?

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

 Today In Washington

THE WHITE HOUSE: After a Situation Room meeting on Libya, Obama and Biden ushered Boehner, Reid and the chairmen of the Appropriations committees into the Oval Office at about 10:15 in hopes of striking a deal on the half-year spending cut package — or at least to prevent a Friday-at-midnight government shutdown.

Over lunch the president is meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres. This afternoon he’s meeting with the heads of two foreign aid agencies, Daniel Yohannes of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and Elizabeth Littlefield of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

THE SENATE: Convened at 10 and shortly after noon will clear legislation repealing the 1099 tax-reporting requirement in the health care law. (Before that, senators will reject an amendment that would delay the repeal by requiring a study of a $19 billion offset’s potential consequences.) The weekly caucus lunches are from 12:30 to 2:15.

THE HOUSE: Convened at 10 and is expected to be done for the day by 2:30, after adopting ground rules for tomorrow’s debate on legislation that would prevent the FCC from finalizing its net neutrality regulations.

OVAL OFFICE ACTION: Republicans went down to the White House this morning with quickly sinking expectations for a spending cut deal by the end of the week — let alone a compromise by the end of the day, the practical deadline for getting a bill through Congress by the deadline that’s about 85 hours away.

In the GOP view, Obama has been so distant from the recent negotiations that it will take more than the 90 minutes allotted today (and probably a few days) for the president to get ramped up on all the outstanding disagreements — even if he’s genuinely interested in becoming negotiator in chief now, and even if he quickly agrees to push the number a bit above $33 billion, as Boehner’s now insisting.

But the stopgap alternative the GOP is presenting is going to be labeled (at least today) as a non-starter with the Democrats: $12 billion in cuts as the price for keeping domestic agencies and the State Department open for one week only — along with a ban on using  municipal funds for abortions in D.C., and the Defense Department getting even more money than it wants for the next six months.

The expectation is that a fly on the Oval Office wall would see Obama, Boehner and Senate Appropriations Chairman Dan Inouye working hard to keep their cool, and that all the heat swill be generated by Reid and the new CR’s nominal author, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers. Their chemistry is awful — and has only gotten worse since Rogers asserted yesterday that Reid will be solely responsible for any government shutdown, because he’s made himself the only Democratic negotiator from Congress and is insisting on the  “gimmick” of using cuts in mandatory programs to get to the bottom line.

And so the prospects of at least a temporary shutdown have surged today. Both the White House and Hill leaders are taking the situations seriously enough that they’re getting ready to sort-of lock up. This morning congressional offices (at least on the House side) were receiving a memo from the leadership telling chiefs of staff the difference between “essential” and “non-essential” employees and which House support offices could be closed. Last night the White House told top agency officials to begin making preparations for implementing a shutdown.

BLAMESHARING: As for the ultimate political question about the consequences of  stalemate — which side will get blamed — a pair of polls out day will give neither side succor. The paradoxically peace-sign shaped pie chart illustrating the Washington Post poll shows both Obama and congressional Republicans facing fault from an identical 37 percent of the public, and a new Pew Research Center poll put the two sides statistically tied as well.

UPSTAGED: The suddenly serious and deep impasse over this year’s budget — essentially about an amount of money that would keep the government open for about a week — has managed to crowd out this morning’s formal unveiling of Paul Ryan’s budget, which stakes out the GOP’s enormously grand ambitions for transforming the federal fiscal posture for the next decade.

The House Budget chairman asserts his plan would cut $6.2 trillion in spending during the next decade when compared against what Obama’s budget is calling for. Compared with the more politically neutral CBO baseline, the savings would be $5.8 trillion. But either way, those numbers are a hundred times more than the $60 billion that is the GOP holy grail for the last half of this fiscal year.

Ryan’s ambitions are so bold, and so politically risk-embracing, that it seemed for a few hours yesterday that his fellow Republicans might let him go it alone in the unveiling, and that he might have trouble holding their support as his budget resolution moves through the legislative process. But not today. Most of his GOP colleagues on the House Budget Committee were expected to stand with him at this morning’s news conference — as was Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on  Senate Budget, who called the Ryan plan “ the most serious attempt ever made to solve America’s spending and debt problems while saving critical programs such as Medicare.”

And Boehner applauded Ryan’s plan as “a budget worthy of the American people. I hope every American concerned about our country’s future will take a look at it.”

All that means is Ryan’s budget will be able to overcome the initial round of withering Democratic criticism and get through his committee on a party-line vote this week – and probably through the House next week. And it will be warmly embraced by the Republicans who remain the minority in the Senate. The Democratic majority in that chamber, led by Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, will not embrace it, but he’ll push his party to try to find a middle ground.

For his part,Ryan made clear this morning that he views his document as an opening bid for bold change, not a set-in-stone prescription. “You can’t get to compromise around here until you’ve at least put your ideas out on the table,” he said.

HIS TRILLIONS: Ryan’s plan includes $1.8 trillion in tax cuts along with the unprecedented spending cuts and fundamental restructuring of the federal health care entitlement for the elderly and the poor. His budget would extend all of the Bush tax cuts, which are now set to expire again at the end of next year, and it calls for a top income-tax rate of 25 percent for both individuals and corporations.

Subtracting the tax cut from the savings would yield a cumulative $4.4 trillion in deficit reduction during the next decade.

He would convert Medicare into a system in which private insurers would operate plans approved by the federal government, and those plans would cover people who are now 55 or older.

At the same time, Republicans propose to sharply cut projected spending on the Medicaid state-federal health program for the poor and disabled and transform it into a block grant program that gives governors far less money than under current estimates, but considerably more flexibility.

NO HEADROOM: Geithner told congressional leaders late Monday that the government will reach its current borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion “no later than May 16.” If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling by then, the Treasury Secretary said, his department has a range of accounting maneuvers and other measures at its disposal to prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations for about eight weeks. But he declared there would be “no headroom” to borrow after July 8.

As a practical matter, that means Congress will want to reach an accord on a new debt ceiling by Friday, June 24, because the House is supposed to be in recess the following week and the Senate the week after that, bumping up against Geithner’s drop-dead date.

In his letter to every lawmaker, Geithner also stated the mathematically obvious: An increase in the debt ceiling is not an option — unless Congress could somehow balance the nation’s books in the next two months, something not even Paul Ryan is talking about. His budget hoped to get the deficit down into the $400 billion range, and not for at least six years.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY:  Two House Republicans, Homeland Security Chairman Peter King of New York ( 67) and freshman Reid Ribble of Wisconsin (55).

— David Hawkings, editor

Become a Facebook fan at facebook.com/DavidHawkingsDC. Or follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/davidhawkings.

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