By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Even many Democrats concede that the message voters sent in the 2010 election was all about spending: namely they wanted Washington to knock it off. What is less clear, however, is just want kind of cuts — if any — Americans are willing to tolerate
And, for now, this is where the battle for hearts and minds of voters will be fought, and we’ve been seeing it play out for the last week in Wisconsin.
Neither side is showing any sign of backing down in the Badger State. State senators told ABC's Bob Woodruff that they had no intention of returning. And, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today, the state’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker gave no ground either.
“The bottom line is we’re trying to balance our budget,” Walker said this morning. “There’s really no room to negotiate on that because we’re broke.” http://abcn.ws/dKHQLt
The stand-off is entering its seventh day and another round of demonstrations between pro-union protesters and opponents is in store. If a deal can't be cut by Friday on refinancing the state's debt, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that “employee layoffs and cuts to Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, elderly, and disabled may be necessary.”
The White House, meanwhile, sought to push back on reports that the Obama administration was encouraging the protesters.
“This is a Wisconsin story, not a Washington one,” Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, told the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes. “False claims of White House involvement are attempts to distract from the organic grass-roots opposition that is happening in Wisconsin.” http://nyti.ms/fgJmeh
(In an interview last week, President Obama asserted that the situation in Wisconsin “seems like more of an assault on unions.”)
Gov. Walker today called on the handful of Democratic lawmakers who have gone into hiding in an attempt to prevent the legislature from moving forward on his proposal to return to the state capitol.
“They think somehow a handful of the minority can hold people hostage,” Walker said. “And the reality is, if you want to participate in democracy, you’ve got to come to where it’s at and that’s in the arena, and the arena is in Madison, Wisconsin.”
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: WHAT COULD IT MEAN? Meanwhile in Washington, “with Democrats and Republicans at a stalemate over how to fund the government, there is a real threat that government agencies could be shut down for the first time in 15 years. The deadline is just two weeks away, and could affect countless thousands of Americans,” ABC’s Huma Khan reports. “The five-day government stoppage in 1995 caused delays in processing of Social Security, Medicare and veterans' checks. While the postal service kept going, the shutdown significantly affected other key government services. Veterans' health and welfare services were caught in confusion. National museums and 368 national parks closed their doors; nine million visitors were turned away. Hundreds of thousands of visa and passport applications went unprocessed as some passport agencies shut down while others operated with minimal staff. The shutdown also threatened to jeopardize a large chunk of programs for low-income Americans, and slowed down services. New patients were not accepted into clinical research trials at the National Institute of Health, according to a report compiled in September by the Congressional Research Service. Toxic waste cleanup at hundreds of sites stopped. Testing and recruitment of certain federal law enforcement officers stopped.” http://abcn.ws/h8uuB0
LIBYA UPDATE: “Despite a brutal crackdown over the weekend, unrest is growing in Libya as anti-government protesters seized military bases and demonstrations spread to the country's capital of Tripoli overnight,” ABC’s Miguel Marquez reports. “The protesters claimed control of the country's second-largest city. Oil prices rose again in Asia this morning over the situation in the region. Companies and countries prepared to evacuate their staff and citizens. Hospital officials and human rights groups reported more than 200 people have been killed and thousands wounded since the unrest started about a week ago. Moammar's Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam, insisted in a televised message delivered Sunday that his father is still in the country and in control.”
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. ABC’s Ann Compton hears from a senior Obama Administration official that they are “analyzing the speech of Saif al-Islam Qadhafi to see what possibilities it contains for meaningful reform. We will seek clarification from senior Libyan officials, as we continue to raise with them the need to avoid violence against peaceful protesters and respect universal rights. The President was briefed on Libya by [National Security Adviser] Tom Donilon last night and is being kept up to speed on events today, and we are considering all appropriate actions.” http://abcn.ws/gQ1SZv
HUCKABEE ON 2012. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is launching a nationwide tour to promote his new book “A Simple Government,” this week, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he’s ambivalent about a presidential run, in part, because “it is a very grueling process … I think the fact that I’ve done it before gives me both a sense of gravity toward the process, but it also gives me an understanding that it’s not always to be the first guy out of the corral and out there in the arena riding around on your pony by yourself.” On President Obama: “I think he is going to be tough to beat. I think all this talk that ‘oh, he’s going to be a one term president’ — people tend to forget that only one time since 1868 has an incumbent president been taken out who ran for re-election.” Huckabee said that he is likely to decide by the summer whether or not to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. http://abcn.ws/eSWNSx
Tune in to Nightline tonight for Terry Moran’s interview with Mike Huckabee. The two talk about Huckabee’s presidential ambitions, Egypt, Social Security, government spending and Sarah Palin. “I think she’s a very significant force,” Huckabee says of Palin. “A force of nature within the conservative movement, not just limited within the Republican Party … And I think what’s made her exceptionally successful, what may have been a moderate success became exceptional success, is the fact that so many people in the media have just absolutely, attempted to nuance her every word … They take her every Tweet, they either blow it up to praise it, or tear it down to destroy it.”
CONGRESSIONAL RECESS GIVES WAY TO MESSAGING WARS. “Democrats headed back to their districts for the Presidents Day recess hope to drive home the message that Republicans should be blamed if the fight over spending cuts ends in a government shutdown,” The Hill’s Erik Wasson notes. “They say they are confident that Republicans have overreached with their handling of the 2011 spending bill and believe that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is vulnerable to charges of putting political concerns above the well-being of the nation. In a direct jab at the Speaker, Democratic lawmakers are planning to message the continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government as the ‘So Be It’ bill and have printed up buttons with that slogan for members to wear. Boehner said that if the CR causes some federal layoffs, ‘So be it’” http://bit.ly/fcN1vH
FORMER PALIN AIDE ALLEGES WRONGDOING. “Sarah Palin’s tenure as Alaskan governor is back under the spotlight today as the Anchorage Daily News reports that a leaked, unpublished manuscript by one of Palin’s former aides alleges that the conservative author and Tea Party favorite broke election law during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign,” ABC News’ Ryan Creed reports. “The unfinished tell-all by Frank Bailey, tentatively titled ‘In Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of our Tumultuous Years,’ is based on over 60,000 emails he sent and received while working in Palin’s inner circle, a team he joined at the beginning of her 2006 campaign for Alaska governor. ‘Blind Allegiance’ was written with author Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon, publisher of the website Mudflats.net. Bailey has not responded to news of the manuscript’s release, but Devon wrote on her website that it was leaked without knowledge by its authors or agents.” http://abcn.ws/e6z4cr
@WestWingReport: President's Week Ahead: Mon.-Fed. holiday; Tue.-Small Business Forum (Cleveland); Wed.-WH meetings; Thu.-Council on Jobs & Competitiveness
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