Budget Showdown: Republicans and Paul Ryan Unveil 2012 Budget “Path to Prosperty” — Obama Refuses Week Extension

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama in the White House on Tuesday spoke about the budget meeting with the Speaker of the House.

IN FOCUS

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama presses Congress to avoid shutdown: Prodded by an insistent President Barack Obama, Congress’ top two lawmakers sought to reinvigorate compromise talks Tuesday aimed at cutting tens of billions in federal spending and averting a partial government shutdown Friday at midnight.
    According to Democrats, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggested at a White House meeting that fellow Republicans might be able to accept a deal with $40 billion in cuts. That’s more than negotiators had been eyeing but less than the House seeks.
    The speaker’s office declined comment, and Boehner issued a statement saying, “We can still avoid a shutdown, but Democrats are going to need to get serious about cutting spending – and soon.”
    For his part, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid sounded an accusatory note. “I hope the Republicans do what the country needs, not what they believe the tea party wants,” he said at the Capitol “I mean, it seems that every step we take, it’s something just to poke us in the eye,” he said…. – AP, 4-5-11
  • GOP budget plan would revamp Medicare, Medicaid: House Republicans set up a politically defining clash over the size and priorities of government Tuesday, unveiling a budget plan that calls for both unprecedented spending cuts and a fundamental restructuring of taxpayer-financed health care for the elderly and the poor.
    The plan would slash federal spending by $5 trillion or more over the coming decade. It would leave Social Security untouched but shift more of the risk from rising medical costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries. It also calls for sharp cuts to Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled and to food aid for the poor.
    Dubbed the “Path to Prosperity,” the proposal by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also calls for dramatically overhauling the complicated and inefficient U.S. tax code. It would scrap numerous tax breaks and loopholes in exchange for reducing the top income tax rate for both individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent…. – AP, 4-5-11
  • No headway on spending plan talks: The first federal government shutdown in more than 15 years draws closer as President Obama and congressional leaders fail to make progress after back-to-back meetings. Obama and Congress remained billions of dollars apart and at odds over where to find savings… – WaPo, 4-5-11
  • As shutdown looms, GOP announces budget plan for 2012: Budget plan would privatize Medicare, cut spending on Medicaid, and offer sharply lower tax rates to corporations and the wealthy…. – WaPo, 4-5-11
  • Budget Stances Harden as Deadline Nears for Shutdown: President Obama on Tuesday flatly dismissed a short-term Republican plan to keep the federal government operating past Friday as Speaker John A. Boehner sought deeper spending cuts, putting Congress and the White House on a course toward a government shutdown.
    Showing some exasperation at the impasse over this year’s budget, Mr. Obama appeared at an impromptu White House news conference and said it would be inexcusable if federal agencies were forced to shut their doors beginning Saturday because House Republicans and Senate Democrats could not bridge differences over a relatively small slice of the budget.
    “As I’ve said before, we have now matched the number that the speaker originally sought,” the president said. “The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown.”
    Appearing before television cameras in the Capitol shortly after the president spoke, Mr. Boehner seemed equally determined not to give ground. The speaker, who faces intense pressure from his conservative rank-and- file, said he intended to push for the greatest spending cuts achievable and would not be maneuvered by Democrats into settling for less. “We are not going to allow the Senate nor the White House to put us in a box,” Mr. Boehner said…. – NYT, 4-5-11
  • Budget wars: Moment of truth arrives: With Republicans upping the ante on spending cuts, President Barack Obama took a tougher line himself Tuesday, warning he won’t sign another stopgap bill without first reaching a deal over the 2011 budget — even at the risk of a shutdown Friday.
    Obama’s comments followed a meeting with congressional leaders at which House Speaker John Boehner floated a compromise of $40 billion in spending cuts — $7 billion more than the $33 billion target negotiators have been working toward since last week. Democrats and administration officials were miffed by the speaker’s late-breaking bid, but it was the first time the Ohio Republican has so explicitly put his name next to a number other than the $61.3 billion in cuts adopted by the House in February. And together with the president’s new stance, it sets the stage for an intense three days before government funding runs out Friday.
    Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), also present at the White House, met later Tuesday for what both sides described as a “productive” session. “The government is not going to be shut down—yet,” Reid said before closing the Senate Tuesday night. “There’s still air in the tire…I hope we have enough air in the tire to get where we need to go.”… – Politico, 4-5-11
  • Budget Talks Head to Brink Parties Far Apart on 2012 Spending, Long-Term Vision as Friday Deadline Nears: Republicans and Democrats stumbled one day closer to a government shutdown on Friday, as the two parties escalated what has become a broader battle over Washington’s role in the U.S. economy.
    Political leaders on Tuesday continued to talk past each other on federal spending, offering little evidence they could soon reach an agreement to avert a shutdown of the government this weekend. Damian Paletta has details.
    The two fights—one over funding the government for the next six months, the other over a sweeping plan to reshape the government for decades to come—showed how far apart the two parties are on basic fiscal issues ahead of the 2012 elections.
    A Tuesday White House meeting called by President Barack Obama featured a series of frustrated exchanges between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), who upped his demand for spending cuts this year to $40 billion, according to people familiar with the session…. – WSJ, 4-5-11
  • White House, GOP fail to achieve agreement on budget: Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration were unable on Tuesday to reach a definitive budget accord that would avert a partial government “shutdown” in three days.
    President Barack Obama met at the White House with the main Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to pressure them to reach an accord on the budget for the six months that remain in Fiscal Year 2011.
    Upon exiting the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a communique that an agreement was not achieved.
    For now, the Republicans are continuing to insist on larger budget cuts and on a temporary one-week extension to keep the government functioning. But the White House does not support that strategy, taking the stance that temporary measures send the wrong message and ultimately harm efforts to move toward economic recovery…. – Fox News, 4-5-11
  • As Shutdown Looms, Agencies Brace for Its Impact: The National Zoo would close, but the lions and tigers will get fed; Yellowstone and other national parks will shut down. The Internal Revenue Service could stop issuing refund checks. Customs and Border Patrol agents training officials in Afghanistan might have to come home. And thousands of government-issued BlackBerries would go silent. This is what a government shutdown might look like.
    With budget talks between Republicans and Democrats far from resolution, official Washington braced on Tuesday for a replay of the Great Government Shutdowns of 1995 and 1996. For weeks, the Obama administration has been quietly examining the experience of the mid-1990s as a kind of shutdown survival guide. Now those preparations have kicked into high gear…. – NYT, 4-5-11

QUOTES

  • Rep. Ryan on Proposed Cuts: ‘Our Budget Literally Pays Off the Debt’: So the president gave us a plan that spends so much more money. He doubled the debt by the end of his first term. And he proposed to triple the debt by the end of this budget. And what we’re offering is a different direction. In our plan, our budget literally pays off the debt… – PBS Newshour, 4-5-11
  • President Obama on Budget Negotiations: “We Have Now Matched the Number the Speaker Originally Sought”: From the outset, my goal has been to significantly cut our domestic spending but, at the same time, make sure we’re making key investments in things like education, infrastructure, innovation — the things that are going to help us win the future.
    And I just want to set the context for this now. Again, I’m going to repeat. Speaker Boehner, Chairman Rogers, the Republican appropriations chairman — their original budget proposed $73 billion in cuts. We have now agreed to $73 billion worth of cuts. What they are now saying is, well, we’re not sure that every single one of the cuts that you’ve made are ones that we agree to; we’d rather have these cuts rather than that cut. That’s not the basis for shutting down the government. We should be able to come up with a compromise in which nobody gets 100 percent of what they want, but the American people get the peace of mind in knowing that folks here in Washington are actually thinking about them — because they’re going through a whole lot of struggles right now.
    The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown. Now, what does this potentially mean for the American people? At a time when the economy is just beginning to grow, where we’re just starting to see a pickup in employment, the last thing we need is a disruption that’s caused by a government shutdown. Not to mention all the people who depend on government services, whether you’re a veteran or you’re somebody who’s trying to get a passport or you’re planning to visit one of the national monuments or you’re a business leader who’s trying to get a small business loan. You don’t want delays, you don’t want disruptions just because of usual politics in Washington.
    So what I said to the Speaker today, and what I said to Leader Reid, and what I’ve said to the two appropriations chairs, is that myself, Joe Biden, my team, we are prepared to meet for as long as possible to get this resolved…. – WH, 4-5-11Transcript

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

Gallery: Battle over the U.S. budget: Congressional Republicans and Democrats have waged a long fight in trying to agree on a budget plan to slash federal spending and avert a government shutdown.

  • Analysis: Obama shifts to play budget dealmaker, avoid blame: “If the public gets angry with a blow-up over the budget and a shutdown, the president needs to be able to say, at a minimum, that he tried,” said Julian Zelizer, history professor at Princeton University. “He wants to avoid having the anger that flowed to Republicans in 1995-1996 focus on him.”… – Reuters, 4-5-11
  • Tevi Troy Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary Plus, Paul Ryan’s budget hard-headed or inhumane?: While it has long been assumed that addressing entitlements was the dreaded “third rail of American politics,” our long-term budget woes are now so severe that a budget putting us on a path to fiscal sanity could be a political plus. Democrats will certainly demagogue Ryan’s budget, but they may find that an unwillingness to get our debt situation under control has turned into the new third rail of the 21st century…. – Politico, 4-5-11
  • Can House finance chief Paul Ryan sell his budget to Americans?: “Nobody knows who Ryan is, outside his home area,” said Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University. “I don’t think he has the clout, the charisma, the political power to do this.”
    But if Ryan has any chance of shifting the politics of these “entitlement programs,” then Sarah Binder, a professor at George Washington University, said sticking to his wonky reputation would be a good idea. “To the extent that he’s able to sort of keep his policy-wonk reputation front and center,” that helps, Binder said. She said Ryan’s best opportunity is to be seen as above party squabbling. His persuasion depends on him instead being viewed as an independent, concerned voice. “Typically, voters like short-term benefits, with the costs put off to the future,” Binder said. Ryan’s vision relies on them agreeing to short-term changes, with benefits further off. “You can’t do that without the president, and you can’t do it without the support of both parties.” – WaPo, 4-5-11
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