By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
There’s already lots of talk by the White House and Republican leaders about the “painful choices” made in their budget proposals, but both sides avoided the biggest — and potentially most painful — issue of all: reform of entitlement spending.
As ABC’s Jake Tapper reports, today President Obama will propose a 10-year budget plan that would increase the national debt by $7.2 trillion over 10 years — $1.1 trillion less than if it weren't implemented. Even so, the plan shows that Obama will not take the lead on any aggressive measure to eliminate the nation’s $14 trillion debt. http://abcn.ws/hGegjg
“It has a lot of pain,” White House Budget Director Jacob Lew said on “Good Morning America” today. “It does the job. It cuts the deficit in half by the end of the president’s first term.” http://abcn.ws/ihYwiV
House Republicans unveiled their own spending bill Friday night to fund the government for seven months that they contend will reduce the president’s requested spending levels this year by at least $100 billion.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the chairman of the House Budget Committee, preemptively scolded President Obama over the weekend for refusing to deal with massive entitlement spending. (Around 85 percent of the federal budget is devoted to entitlements, defense and homeland security spending, and paying down interest on the debt.)
“Presidents are elected to lead, not to punt,” Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday.”
On the issue of entitlements, Lew told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos this morning that “When the [president’s deficit] commission was created, it was given the target of bringing the deficit down to 3 percent of our economy. … The president’s budget that we’re putting out today, achieves that goal.”
Will President Obama’s plan be “dead on arrival,” in Congress?
“I don't like to say that until I actually see the budget,” Ryan responded, noting that members of Congress will be able to “make that determination pretty quickly” today.
As ABC’s Rick Klein notes, “Both parties face cross-pressures inside their own coalitions that will drive them further apart, zapping prospects for bipartisan cooperation on taxing and spending priorities. It all just might lead to a scenario where a government shutdown is possible.” http://abcn.ws/hYPBRi
BOTTOM LINE: Both sides are going to have to figure out how to sell the American public on the fact that all this cutting will actually benefit them in the form of more job creation. Though the battle over the deficit may be the talk of the Beltway this week, for the rest of the country, jobs remain the number one economic concern. When asked which of the following issues worries you most, 44 percent of respondents in a recent Pew poll picked “the job situation” while just 19 percent picked the federal budget deficit.
Newt Gingrich And Tim Pawlenty On Obama And Egypt. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized the Obama administration's handling of the crisis in Egypt, warned against the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood there and called for broader promotion of democracy around the world in an interview with "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour. Gingrich criticized the mixed messages that appeared to becoming from the White House throughout the crisis. "You appoint a very senior diplomat to be your special ambassador, he makes a statement in Munich about what we're doing, and three hours later, the White House is directly contradicting him," Gingrich said referring to Frank Wisner, Obama's special envoy to Egypt, who called Mubarak key to Egypt's move to democracy. The White House later took a substantively different position. http://abcn.ws/eIb4Ij
Also on “This Week,” former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty slammed the Obama administration's response to protests in Egypt over the last two and half weeks. He compared the White House response to the "Tower of Babel" and said the mixed messages added up to something "nearly incoherent." … "First of all," Pawlenty said, "before [Obama's] administration spoke like a tower of Babel, with multiple voices saying multiple things, they should have had one message that was clear and consistent and measured and appropriate. Instead you had the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the national intelligence director going off in different directions, saying nearly incoherent things, at least inconsistent things.” http://abcn.ws/eDbnNz (h/t ABC’s Joshua Miller)
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein interviews freshman Congressman Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. Also on the program, David Drucker from CQ Roll Call. Drucker writes today about a brewing fight among Republicans in the Senate: “What has been a remarkably cohesive and collegial Senate Republican leadership team threatens to be torn asunder over the next 18 months by a potentially divisive race for Whip and additional jockeying for other top Conference posts.” More on that today on “Top Line.” Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
FLAKE EYES KYL SENATE SEAT. “GOP Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) will announce Monday he is running for Senate in 2012,” The Hill’s Jordan Fabian and Shane D’Aprile report. “According to a Republican source familiar with his plans, Flake will hold an 8 a.m. Mountain Time news conference in Phoenix to declare his candidacy to replace Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who is retiring. The seventh-term congressman has long been rumored to want a spot in the upper chamber. Flake appears to be the candidate of choice among national Republicans for the open seat race. Right after Kyl announced his retirement last week, GOP insiders pegged Flake as the early frontrunner, despite the potential for a contested primary. He's also a favorite of the Club for Growth, which has already publicly urged him to jump into the race.” http://bit.ly/f6jLTj
GOP’S ‘REBEL’ FRESHMEN NOT SO REBELLIOUS. “In the battle between Washington and the tea party, Washington is winning among the Senate’s Republican freshmen,” Politico’s Scott Wong writes. “Many have hired lobbyists and other D.C. insiders to run their offices. Ten of the 13 GOP freshmen have shunned any formal affiliation to the tea party. And most are quick to follow marching orders from Republican leadership. They rarely speak on the Senate floor, they haven’t been introducing much legislation. And they’ve been quietly loyal on roll call votes. … All this makes them, well, quite senatorial — which is a sharp departure from the anti-establishment, anti-Washington attitude they brought to the campaign trail last year.”
DNC SLAMS GOP’S CPAC MESSAGE. The Democratic National Committee released a new Web video this morning contrasting the rhetoric from Republicans at CPAC to the message of President Obama and Democratic leaders. A DNC spokesperson tells the Note, “The biggest winners coming out of CPAC were Democrats and the President as it is clear based on the presentations there that Republicans have no message and nothing to offer the public accept re-fighting the political and legislative battles — battles they have already lost.” Watch the video: http://bit.ly/hKvknf
ICYMI: RON PAUL WINS CPAC STRAW POLL. For the second year in a row, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., emerged as the potential presidential candidate that a group of conservative activists want to see at the top of the Republican ticket in 2012. Paul won this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll by a healthy margin, getting 30 percent of the vote. His nearest competitor was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who won 23 percent of the vote. Most of the other possible candidates wound up in the low single digits. Still, Romney's finish was relatively strong given talk that health care reform legislation he championed in Massachusetts — which includes an individual mandate — would alienate the conservative base. Sarah Palin finished a distant ninth place in the unscientific poll, which is not necessarily an accurate indicator of where the Republican electorate stands heading into 2012. Full CPAC straw poll results. http://abcn.ws/ghIqnH
GIFFORDS’ LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY. “Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an eloquent speaker before she was shot in the head last month, is relearning the skill — progressing from mouthing words and lip-syncing songs to talking briefly by telephone to her brother-in-law in space,” The New York Times’ Marc Lacey and James C. McKinley Jr. report. “With a group of friends and family members acting as a backup chorus, Ms. Giffords has been mouthing the lyrics to ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ and ‘I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby.’ And as a surprise for her husband, who is celebrating his birthday this month, a longtime friend who has been helping her through her rehabilitation videotaped her mouthing the words to ‘Happy Birthday to You.’ … Outside specialists say it remains unclear, despite the hopeful early signs, what functions in Ms. Giffords’s mind were affected by the traumatic injuries she suffered when she was shot at point-blank range on Jan. 8 at a constituent event in Tucson.” http://nyti.ms/hp9LWp
@ShawnaT_DC: Rep. Garrett (R-NJ) said the POTUS FY12 budget "Spends a little bit too much, taxes too much & borrows too much again."
@DCMorningCall: Happy Vday to all those in love, happy budget day to political wonks and happy pitchers and catchers day to baseball fans!
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