Political Buzz Debt Ceiling Showdown August 3-5, 2011: Debt Ceiling Aftermath — Reactions, Fall Out & Poll Numbers — Low Marks for Congress, Speaker Boehner & President Obama

POLITICAL BUZZ

IN FOCUS: DEBT CEILING SHOWDOWN AFTERMATH: THE REACTIONS, FALLOUT, & POLL NUMBERS

“Never again will any president, from either party, be allowed to raise the debt ceiling without being held accountable for it by the American people and without having to engage in the kind of debate we’ve just come through….
This kind of discussion isn’t something to dread; it’s something to welcome,” Mr. McConnell said. “And while the president may not have particularly enjoyed this debate, it was a debate that Washington needed to have.” — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

“The debt ceiling should not be something that is used as a gun against the heads of the American people.” — President Barack Obama

“I don’t think it’ll have any impact because there’s no revenues, there’s nothing done to Social Security or Medicare.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told POLITICO Tuesday

“Who voted against it?… The extreme left, extreme right. Florida is not extreme in its politics.” — Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat whose seat is targeted in 2012.

“While deficit reduction is part of that agenda, it is not the whole agenda. Growing the economy isn’t just about cutting spending. That’s not how we’re going to get past this recession. We’re going to have to do more than that.” — President Barack Obama

The partisan battle to raise the government’s debt ceiling and cut trillions of dollars from its spending ended on Tuesday just hours before the nation’s borrowing authority was set to run out. The impact of such a divided government is now abundantly clear: The agenda of the 112th Congress will be dominated by continual fighting over spending priorities and regulations, with a high bar for big debates on foreign policy…. – NYT, 8-2-11

 

STATS & POLLS

Disapproval Rating of Congress at a Record 82 Percent, Poll Finds: The debate over raising the debt ceiling, which brought the nation to the brink of default, has sent disapproval of Congress to its highest level on record and left most Americans saying that creating jobs should now take priority over cutting spending, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
A record 82 percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job — the most since The Times first began asking the question in 1977, and even more than after another political stalemate led to a shutdown of the federal government in 1995. More than four out of five people surveyed said that the recent debt ceiling debate was more about gaining political advantage than about doing what is best for the country. Nearly three-quarters said that the debate had harmed the image of the United States in the rest of the world…. – NYT, 8-4-11

  • Poll: Disapproval of U.S. Congress hits new high: Disapproval of Congress rose to an all-time high after weeks of rancorous partisan battles over raising the U.S. debt ceiling took the country to the brink of default, according a New York Times/CBS News public opinion poll published on Thursday.
    A record 82 percent of Americans now say they disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, compared with 14 percent who approve, the poll found.
    The disapproval rating for Congress was the highest in the 34 years the question has been asked in the poll and up from the previous high of 77 percent set in May 2010…. – Reuters, 8-4-11
  • Polls: No one wins in debt ceiling deal: No one has emerged spotless from the debt-ceiling debate, according to a survey conducted in the aftermath of the agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
    A CBS News/New York Times poll released Thursday revealed that eight in 10 Americans say they disapprove of how Congress is handling its job – the highest number in the poll’s history since 1977.
    A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday echoes the nation’s displeasure with congressional leaders. Eighty-four percent of the nation disapproved of the way Congress is handling its job in the poll; only 14 percent approved.
    But the country is split over how the president is handling his responsibilities in the White House. Forty-eight percent said they approve of how President Barack Obama is handling his job and 47 percent disapprove in the CBS News/New York Times survey.
    When it comes to the debt-ceiling negotiations, 66 percent said they disapprove of how Democrats handled the talks and more – 72 percent – said they disapprove of the way Republicans negotiated to broker the deal…. – CNN, 8-4-11
  • New Poll a Warning for Congress as Battles Loom: Americans’ ire for Congress grew after the debt ceiling compromise, a New York Times/CBS poll finds in a sharp warning for legislators as another battle brews over long-term funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. And that’s just one issue among many that could mimic the debt debate theatrics.
    A full three quarters of those polled this week said most members of Congress deserve to get the boot in 2012. Eighty-two percent disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job overall, up from 70 percent in late June, and just 14 percent approve. [Read Walsh: Congress reverts to its customary bickering and backbiting.]
    Speaker of the House John Boehner also took a hit this year—a majority, 57 percent, now disapproves of his performance, compared to 41 percent in April, just after the government shutdown was narrowly averted. The change seems due to the increased public scrutiny he sustained during the debt ceiling debate, since the real change came from the “don’t know/not applicable” category, which dropped by more than half, from 27 to 13 percent, during the same period. His approval rating only decreased from 32 to 30 percent. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt…. – US News, 8-5-11
  • Poll: Thumbs down on the debt-ceiling deal: The hard-won, last-minute agreement to raise the debt ceiling and cut the deficit gets low ratings from Americans, who by more than 2-1 predict it will make the nation’s fragile economy worse rather than better.
    In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken hours after the Senate passed and President Obama signed the deal, 46% disapprove of the agreement; 39% approve, 41% of people polled said the deal will make the economy worse. Only one in five see it as a step forward in addressing the federal debt.
    The dyspeptic view may reflect less an assessment of the plan’s particulars than dismay at the edge-of-a-cliff negotiations to reach it.
    “Most people assume that whatever came out of this horrible process was pretty crappy,” says Joseph White, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who studies budget policy…. – USA Today, 8-3-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Politics of 2012, clashes over policy pose huge obstacles as Congress seeks more deficit cuts: The special panel’s goal is lofty: concoct a deal both parties will embrace to slash federal deficits by a mammoth $1.5 trillion or more over the next decade.
    Yet from the moment House and Senate leaders appoint the 12 members until the 2012 elections, hurricane-force political pressures are going to make it tough to produce anything substantial.
    All sides will fiercely defend core priorities, Republicans opposing tax increases and defense cuts and Democrats protecting benefits for Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid recipients. Those happen to be exactly where nonpartisan analysts say savings must occur for any serious deficit-cutting package to emerge.
    The decisions — at least the next big ones — rest with the committee set up by the agreement that defused the debt-limit crisis this week.
    Every choice will have implications for President Barack Obama’s re-election, for Republican hopefuls jockeying to unseat him and for Democrats and Republicans struggling for control of the House and Senate.
    If the special committee of lawmakers fails to produce a savings plan by Thanksgiving or if Congress rejects it by Christmas, this week’s compromise debt limit accord between Obama and Congress will automatically trigger cuts of $1.2 trillion from much of the budget, with half from the military…. – WaPo, 8-4-11
  • Try as he might, Obama can’t shake Bush tax cuts: Time and again during his presidential campaign, Barack Obama was unequivocal: “We are going to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.” But when the chips were down, now-President Obama blinked and backed away.
    Twice in less than nine months, Obama has shelved his pledge in deadline-pressing negotiations with congressional Republicans. Obama insists he still is determined to find new revenue by making taxpayers who make more than $200,000 and big corporations pay more, but frustrated liberals say he has already missed key opportunities.
    Inaction on taxes and his willingness to consider structural changes to Medicare and Social Security, long-cherished Democratic programs, have strained relations with some Democratic lawmakers and liberal backers who complain Obama has been too willing to backtrack from his positions. The increasingly urgent twists and turns over raising the government’s debt ceiling placed Obama’s concessions in sharp relief.
    “It’s his wanting to be the reasonable guy and thinking this is the way to appeal to independent votes,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the labor-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “I think he’s engaged in a fool’s game that ultimately won’t win him independent voters and will actually just hurt people and the economy.”… – AP, 8-4-11
  • Threatened Defense Cuts in Debt Deal Could Loom Over 2012 Race: The threat of $500 billion in future defense cuts codified in the new deficit-reduction law could sharpen a dispute between Republicans and Democrats over national security as the 2012 campaign intensifies.
    President Barack Obama and congressional Republican leaders designed the defense cuts — as well as reductions in all other areas of government, including Medicare — as a doomsday incentive to force Congress to enact a more targeted spending- cut package by year’s end.
    For the Defense Department, cuts ranging from substantial reductions in the military’s 1.43 million-strong force to eliminating subsidies for the Pentagon’s chain of subsidized grocery stores would likely be on the table under the worst-case scenario. Regardless of whether they materialize, the potential cuts to the military have become a political weapon for both sides…. – Bloomberg, 8-4-11
  • Debt Ceiling Votes Herded Without Carrots, Sticks: Speaker John Boehner was desperate in his search for votes from his party to prevent a first-ever government default. But despite what a GOP freshman called “hour by hour by hour” pressure from the Ohio Republican leader and his lieutenants, rank-and-file holdouts said they were neither offered carrots nor threatened with sticks to change their minds. That’s a major transformation from the not too distant past.
    There were no promises of new bridges or campaign help. No threats to boot members off coveted committees. And, if some of those tactics had been tried, it’s unlikely that many House Republican tea party supporters would have been swayed. They came to Washington disdainful of such wheeling and dealing and promising to fix what members of both parties had come to describe as a culture of corruption.
    Boehner, who has risen, fallen and risen again in the House GOP hierarchy, has long shunned earmarked “pet projects” and had no objection when more conservative deficit hawks succeeded in getting them banned…. – AP, 8-4-11
  • Debt-ceiling deal doesn’t end this argument: In the end, President Barack Obama got his longer debt-ceiling extension, and tea party Republicans succeeded in forcing more future spending cuts as the price.
    But assessment of the ultimate fallout from the agreement that ended the disheartening display of dysfunctional politics that preoccupied the capital and threatened government default is more complex. It depends on how its procedures affect future spending and the ultimate impact on the economy and the 2012 election.
    The bad news is that, despite Obama’s plea Tuesday for action on trade deals and other measures that could help the economy, Congress is likely to remain fixated on cutting spending, an essential long-term goal but one that might hamper efforts to create jobs and provide the economic boost voters demanded last fall…. – The Dallas Morning News, 8-4-11
  • After debt deal, Obama takes staff to lunch: What to do now that the debt crisis is over? President Barack Obama took some of his hard-working debt warriors out for lunch on Wednesday.
    The president rounded up a handful of staff members who have been working almost nonstop for months on the debt issue and headed to Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill.
    “It smells pretty good,” Obama said as he arrived at the restaurant. “Michelle eats here all the time.”
    Those who joined him at a rectangular wooden table included Jack Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors. Others in the group were White House Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy Ann DeParle and Gene Sperling, the head of the National Economic Council. Also included was Bruce Reed, chief of staff to Vice President Barack Obama…. – AP, 8-3-11
  • The real drama was in private as debt deal hatched: It played out on two tracks, the struggle to head off a national default. One was for show. The other was for real. That’s how most big things happen in Washington.
    The final votes were public, not even all that close in the end. But the crisis was genuine, and the real crisis management took place in private
    The tracks finally came together, in the nick of time, when the Senate granted final passage to legislation raising the U.S. debt ceiling, trimming spending and punting the most painful decisions on deficits down the road. President Barack Obama’s pen sealed the deal Tuesday afternoon.
    Anyone tuned to the capital’s ways just knew the negotiations for a debt deal would go down to the final hours and everything that unfolded before that in the public eye was theater, hollow suspense.
    The drama was behind the curtains. That’s where Republicans and Democrats up and down the chain of authority finally joined in a common cause to stave off a potentially catastrophic default on debt payments…. – AP, 8-3-11
  • Did debt-ceiling drama damage Obama?: The president is the most visible symbol of what voters see as a badly dysfunctional government. Some Democrats say he could have negotiated better….
    Administration officials concede the debate gave the public a look at government sausage-making at its worst. And White House officials also know that as president, Obama is the most visible symbol of a government that voters see as badly dysfunctional. The turmoil in Washington is not what voters signed up for when Obama was elected, officials say, acknowledging that as president, he absorbs a substantial share of voters’ unhappiness.
    Voters used words such as “disgusting” and “ridiculous” in summarizing their view of the debt fight, according to one poll released this week. And that unhappiness comes as Obama faces fresh signs that the economic recovery is stalled.
    Obama is hardly the only incumbent in trouble with voters. His approval ratings, which have dropped to the low 40s, still far exceed those of Congress. A Gallup poll last month showed that only 33% approved of congressional Democrats; 28% of Republicans. But congressional disapproval numbers are of limited comfort to a president facing a difficult reelection campaign.
    Moreover, many Democrats — including some ordinarily sympathetic to the president — feel part of the problem is of Obama’s own making…. – LAT, 8-3-11
  • Can the Debt Ceiling Genie Be Put Back in the Bottle?: If there was any doubt that Washington’s acrimonious debt fight created a new political reality, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky dashed it on Tuesday.
    The very real threat of forcing the nation into a first-ever financial default — along with the potential for economic calamity — will forever be a powerful tool used by lawmakers and presidents alike, the Senate’s top Republican predicted.
    President Obama had argued repeatedly during the last several weeks that holding up a debt ceiling increase amid partisan political bickering was the equivalent of a hostage-taking, with the global economy at stake…. – NYT, 8-3-11
  • Obama signs debt ceiling deal to avert default, eyes now turn to ‘supercommittee’: President Obama signed the compromise deal to raise the debt ceiling and take the first steps toward deficit reduction after the Senate passed the measure Tuesday morning. As Paul Kane, Lori Montgomery and William Branigin reported:
    The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a plan to raise the federal debt limit and cut government spending, ending a bitter partisan stalemate that had threatened to plunge the nation into default and destabilize the world economy.
    One day after a climactic vote in the House, the Senate easily approved the measure, 74 to 26, with significant majorities of both parties supporting it. President Obama promptly signed the bill and submitted a formal request to Congress to lift the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, instantly giving Treasury $400 billion in additional borrowing power.
    With the immediate crisis averted, Obama and congressional leaders quickly turned their attention to the next front in the war over the federal budget: a new legislative committee that will have the job of developing a broader plan to control the government’s debt…. – WaPo, 8-3-11
  • The Problem is Too Much Debt: For the past two years or so, my prediction for the cumulative debt of the United States government over the next ten years has been in the $15 to $20 trillion range. This would more than double the current amount of government debt outstanding.
    Since the events of the past few days in Washington, D. C., my prediction for the cumulative debt of the United States government over the next ten years is still in the $15 to $20 trillion range.
    The most descriptive characterization of the “debt deal” that I have heard is that Congress (and the President) has just “kicked the can down the road.”… – Wall Street Pit, 8-3-11
  • In debt deal, the triumph of the old Washington: In the end, though, the bill sold itself. Instead of making the “hard choices” that both Obama and the new Republicans said they wanted, it put many of them off. It will be up to that bipartisan committee to determine where difficult cuts will come.
    It was an idea straight out of old Washington: To solve a crisis today, the bill created a crisis three months from now, when the committee’s report is due.
    And each party seemed willing to believe that the committee would do what they had wanted all along…. – WaPo, 8-2-11
  • Debt Fight Over, Obama Promises Action on Jobs: Having ceded considerable ground to Republicans in the debt ceiling fight, President Obama set out Tuesday to reclaim the initiative on the economy, promising a new effort to spur job creation while seeking to position himself as a proven voice of reason in an era of ideological overreach.
    After being cloistered in Washington for a month haggling with Congressional leaders, Mr. Obama will embark on a bus tour of the Midwest the week of Aug. 15 — a chance to show his commitment to reviving the economy in a region of important electoral battlegrounds, and to turn the page from the tangled, often toxic, debate in the capital.
    On the policy front, Mr. Obama shifted quickly to pushing Congress to adopt a raft of familiar measures to stimulate the flagging economy, including extending the payroll tax suspension for workers, beefing up benefits for the unemployed, approving trade agreements and investing in infrastructure projects.
    The debt ceiling plan, with its emphasis on cutting government spending, underscores the constrained atmosphere in which Mr. Obama is operating. While he promised on Tuesday to present new ideas to encourage companies to hire workers, a senior aide acknowledged that Mr. Obama had no “magic beads.”… – NYT, 8-2-11
  • What will debt-ceiling deal do to the fragile US economy?: The political deal to raise the debt ceiling averted a fiscal crisis, but a big question remains: Will the cuts in spending help or harm the economic recovery? So far the markets are unimpressed…. – CS Monitor, 8-2-11
  • Debt deal signed, so Dems try job agenda again: The debt ceiling crisis barely was averted Tuesday when President Barack Obama and other top Democrats were ready to change the subject.
    Obama offered little praise for the $2.1 trillion deficit package during a press conference at the Rose Garden, instead vowing to fight for “new jobs, higher wages and faster economic growth” in the coming months — an agenda he has tried to resurrect at least a half-dozen times in the past two years. Politico, 8-2-11
  • Debt ceiling compromise might not have political impact: But there were clear divisions between Republican and Democratic lawmakers who’ll face off in Senate races in Montana, Nevada and Missouri, and it remains to be seen whether the public accepts the deal as a credible budget plan. If it fails to control budget deficits, lawmakers who backed the plan could face outrage from tea party activists already disappointed by the deal. Or if the House-Senate committee created by the new law overhauls entitlements, the left may be furious.
    With 23 Democratic Senate seats in cycle, compared to just 10 for the GOP, Republicans believe that the public’s anger with Washington will hurt Democrats far more — while Democrats believe that the GOP will be blamed for causing an ugly fight that took the economy to the brink…. – Politico, 8-2-11
  • John Boehner reflects on debt ceiling debate:
    Speaking on Monday, House Speaker John Boehner reflected on the debate over raising the nation’s debt limit, saying the deal represents a victory for Republican lawmakers.
    “When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy,” Mr. Boehner said in an interview with CBS News.
    “It really boiled down to two issues. President was insisting on more taxes. President never got serious about the kind of spending cuts that were necessary in order to get America back on a sound fiscal footing,” Mr. Boehner said…. – The State Column, 8-2-11
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