ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Now that we can agree that the recession either is or isn’t over …
What to do with the “fat cats”?
President Obama on Monday hauls in top bankers to the White House, at 11:10 am ET, as we begin to see what a redoubled effort around the economy looks like.
It means the president is setting some goals: Larry Summers, appearing on “This Week” Sunday, predicting job growth by spring.
It means he’s making private lobbying public: Those bankers will get an earful from Obama about the need to restart lending.
It means he really needs results, too.
The political end of the strategy is clear enough: No issue matters when it’s in the same room as the economy. What better way to pressure bankers to pitch in than to share a room with them — with all the public messaging that comes along with using the White House as a woodshed?
This could mean much more than a jobs summit — in symbols and substance. But there won’t be many people left to blame if it doesn’t work. It’s not the first time bankers have been hauled in for some tough talk. The pitchforks, as always, are waiting.
Deliverables, even before the meeting, per the AP: “Citigroup is repaying $20 billion in bailout money it received from the Treasury Department, in an effort to reduce government influence.”
Statement from Treasury: “As banks replace Treasury investments with private capital, confidence in the financial system increases, government’s unprecedented involvement in the private sector diminishes, and taxpayers are made whole.”
In time for… “On Monday, President Obama is to meet with the chiefs of the nation’s biggest banks at the White House and press them to help speed the economic recovery by providing more loans to small businesses and homeowners,” The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny and Eric Dash report. “Mr. Obama will address the size of salaries and bonuses, an official said, as he seeks to impress upon bankers that they have a ‘special responsibility’ to consumers.”
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “We have to get them off the sidelines and get them to play a more active role in our economic recovery.”
In the meeting Monday with the president: Valerie Jarrett, Christina Romer, Larry Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and the heads of the nation’s 12 largest banks.
Summers, to George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday: “We were there for them. And the banks need to do everything they can to be sure they’re there for customers across this country.”
David Axelrod, to Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” Monday: “What the president’s going to say to the bankers is, you guys were part of the problem… And now you have to be part of the solution, and you have to accelerate lending to small businesses, medium-sized businesses… People are not going to tolerate a situation where the bankers have a party, they pick up the tab, and then the bankers pay themselves huge bonuses, and they’re not lending.”
ABC’s Jake Tapper: “Today, the two areas where President Obama will primarily encourage the bankers to be more active are to give more loans to small businesses and to allow more refinancing and restructuring of mortgages for homeowners. … The president will also express irritation, officials say, with the lavish bonuses these executives are paying themselves this year.”
Tapper, on “GMA”: “The question for the president today: Will his stern words be heeded?”
The context: “Relations between the banking industry and the White House were frosty from the start and have deteriorated in recent weeks, with large banks lobbying against portions of legislation that would toughen financial-market regulations and administration officials angered by some banks’ continued payment of high bonuses and their reluctance to lend,” Elizabeth Williamson writes in The Wall Street Journal. “But the White House could be criticized for meddling too much in the private business of banks if they directed lenders to make specific loans, particularly at a time when regulators are requiring banks to write off certain delinquent loans.”
Working the politics: “The president and his administration know they must change the perception of TARP; they must show that the money given to banks came with string attached, strings that now require these financial institutions to do everything they can to help the average American,” Chris Cillizza writes, at “The Fix” blog.
“The administration’s success in rescuing banks stands in starker contrast every day with the financial problems of many Americans, most of all the lack of new jobs, and Democrats made restless by the disparity are mounting pressure on the White House,” Binyamin Applebaum writes in The Washington Post.
Working the policy: “Obama’s bank bashing is about more than politics. The President has real problems only the banks can help him solve,” Time’s Massimo Calabresi reports. “On jobs, housing and the strength of the economy, he needs bankers to change their behavior, and there’s only so much he can do to force them.”
Results — already? “Facing White House pressure to increase lending, bank CEOs plan to tell President Barack Obama in a meeting on Monday that they are ready to ‘step up’ and take additional steps to promote economic recovery,” Politico’s Mike Allen and Eamon Javers report.
“Every CEO that’s participating is ready to a) listen and b) step up,” said an industry executive familiar with plans for the meeting. “Everybody’s goal is to come out of the meeting with actionable, constructive and measurable things that the industry can do to spur recovery.”
A deadline worth remembering: “I believe that, as do most professional forecasters, that by spring, employment growth will start to be turning positive,” Larry Summers said on ABC’s “This Week.”
On health care — if there’s still a chance of getting a bill before Christmas, we’ll know very, very soon.
“The next 48 hours will be critical to the fate of health-care reform in the Senate, as Democratic leaders struggle to settle disputes that stand in the way of holding a final vote this year on the massive package,” Shailagh Murray writes in The Washington Post. “Most of the undecided lawmakers have refused to commit until the Congressional Budget Office delivers a cost analysis on the coverage alternatives offered last week by a group of five liberal and five conservative Democrats to replace the government insurance option originally included in the legislation.”
“Most insiders agree that Democrats have until Thursday to work out their differences if they want to pass a bill by Dec. 23,” Chris Frates reports for Politico. The big, big number that Democrats pray is small-ish: “If the CBO’s report is well received, notably by the handful of moderate Democrats who have serious qualms, the measure is a decent bet to win passage before Christmas,” McClatchy’s David Lightman reports. “If, however, the CBO raises serious questions about cost, affordability or access to care, there could be political trouble.” OK — so now is it time to give up on Joe Lieberman?
“Democratic Senators became increasingly intransigent over the weekend about what they can accept as part of a health care reform bill, further complicating Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) goal of passing legislation by Christmas,” Roll Call’s David M. Drucker reports. “Moderate Senators are proving to be Reid’s latest headache, with several on drawing sharper lines in the sand Sunday on the $848 billion package.”
“Most surprising to Reid was Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (ID-Conn.) second filibuster threat in two months. After indicating as much on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday, Lieberman formally notified Reid that afternoon that he would oppose any bill that expanded Medicare.”
“The bill’s supporters had said earlier that they thought they had secured Mr. Lieberman’s agreement to go along with a compromise they worked out to overcome an impasse within the Democratic Party,” The New York Times’ Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn report. “But on Sunday, Mr. Lieberman told the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, to scrap the idea of expanding Medicare and abandon any new government insurance plan or lose his vote.”
Not just Joe feeling the heat: “Firedoglake has called on Susan G. Komen for the Cure to dump Hadassah Lieberman as its ‘Global Ambassador’ due to her ties to the same healthcare industry that is actively fighting Congressional healthcare reform. The group also called on prominent Komen celebrity spokespeople, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Andie MacDowell and Christie Brinkley, to lend support in ousting Lieberman.”
More company for Lieberman: Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said on CBS of the Medicare expansion: “I’m concerned that it’s the forerunner of single payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option.”
Plus: “I can’t support the bill with the abortion language that’s there,” Nelson said.
David Axelrod, on “GMA”: “You don’t get the grade until the final exam. We’re not there yet.”
Some skeptical voices… Al From, in the Sunday Washington Post’s “Outlook” section: “Real health-care reform requires that good intentions be accompanied by tough actions. The potential compromise in the Senate seems heavier on the former than the latter. As a result, it’s likely to fall short of President Obama’s objectives of expanding coverage, lowering costs and improving quality — without adding to the federal deficit.”
On cost: “Health cost increases might spontaneously recede, but history suggests skepticism,” Robert J. Samuelson writes in his Washington Post column. “To attack costs first would be politically challenging. … And it would require stronger measures to dismantle a fee-for-service delivery system that now rewards more, not better, care. That’s a demanding and realistic approach; Obama’s is wishful thinking.”
And what comes next: “Democrats are having fun highlighting the ‘civil war’ within the Republican Party, but their schadenfreude may be short-lived. Conservative and moderate Democrats are failing one liberal litmus test after another, stoking not just frustration on the left but also potential primary challenges,” Politics Daily’s Jill Lawrence writes.
Over on the right — Bloomberg’s Al Hunt checks in with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. A few highlights: DeMint considers Social Security a “socialistic” measure, and says the AARP supports “socialist solutions.” And on the idea of a gay or lesbian president: “It would be bothersome to me just personally because I consider it immoral.”
Coming Thursday — selling the stimulus on the road again: “Vice President Joe Biden will be in Georgia on Thursday to make an stimulus-related announcement with Gov. Sonny Perdue, the vice president’s office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday,” Aaron Gould Sheinin reports in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A choice for the president, though it really isn’t a choice: “Congress gave final approval to a $450 billion spending bill for government agencies providing an average 12 percent budget increase for many programs amid what polls show is mounting public concern over federal deficits,” Bloomberg’s Brian Faler reports. “Obama is likely to sign the spending measure into law, though the White House Budget Office didn’t issue its usual ‘Statement of Administration Policy’ outlining its position on the bill. A White House Office of Management and Budget spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment.”
Checking in on Copenhagen: “Despite a multitude of impasses, conflicts, and dramas playing out in hotel lobbies, restaurants, and meeting halls in Denmark’s frigid capital city, hope remains the dominant mood here as the effort to strike a worldwide climate deal ticks into its final five days,” Beth Daley reports in The Boston Globe. “Even if a final agreement that sets firm greenhouse-gas emissions targets is not achieved by Friday, many environmentalists, academics, and scientists say, the groundwork to reach one next year appears to be getting done.”
What the president can’t bring with him: “When Mr. Obama journeys to the Danish capital Dec. 18, he will be hard-pressed to satisfy the desires of other nations for the U.S. to commit to deep cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, or for a long-term deal to subsidize developing nations’ efforts to install low-carbon energy technology and to preserve forests. Mr. Obama may offer precise numbers and pledges, but he doesn’t have the votes for legislation to put them into effect,” The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Power and Jonathan Weisman report.
“A good solid B-plus. … If I get health care passed, we tip into A-minus.” — President Obama, grading himself, on Oprah’s special Sunday night.
“Weird to talk to you on a Monday morning.” — David Axelrod, to George Stephanopoulos, on his “Good Morning America” debut.
“Weird for me, too.” — Stephanopoulos, in response.
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