By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Like sands through the hourglass, the prospect for averting a looming government shutdown in Washington as well as the chances for compromise in the Wisconsin stand-off between the GOP, Democrats and organized labor, appear to be slipping away.
Negotiations between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on a spending bill that would keep the government running after March 4 when current funding for the government runs out, are not going well, ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports. http://abcn.ws/eEW5zd
Republican leaders attempted to craft a bill that would allow the government to function for an extra two weeks in order to create some wiggle room to negotiate the longer-term continuing resolution. But yesterday Democrats rejected the proposal, which includes $4 billion in cuts, calling for a month-long extender bill instead.
“This bill would simply be a two-week version of the reckless measure the House passed last weekend,” Jon Summers, a spokesman for Reid said. “It would impose the same spending levels in the short term as their initial proposal does in the long term, and it isn’t going to fool anyone. Both proposals are non-starters in the Senate.”
Republicans in the House of Representatives last week passed a bill that includes $61 billion in cuts over the next 7 months. Democrats on Wednesday touted a confidential new report issued by Goldman Sachs that says those spending cuts would be a “drag” on the economy, cutting economic growth by about two percent of GDP. http://abcn.ws/fKZVH3
Like his Democratic counterparts, Speaker Boehner appeared to cede no ground, “Americans understand we need to stop the spending binge in Washington to create a better environment for job creation,” he said yesterday, “So I ask Senator Reid, with all due respect: What are you willing to cut?”
Capitol Hill insiders we talk to expect Congress to simply keep kicking the continuing resolution can down the road, finding a way to pass short term extensions for the foreseeable future. But, just how willing will those 87 GOP freshman be to accept the compromise?
At a Christian Science Monitor event yesterday, potential 2012 presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee reiterated the contention he made earlier this week on “Good Morning America” that a government shutdown would not be nearly as debilitating today as it was in 1995 thanks in part to automation of essential services.
And Politico’s Marin Cogan followed Florida’s freshman representatives back home and found that "the message coming to these members … is one that makes them feel emboldened in their stand against the Senate Democrats.” http://politi.co/h51oUc
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, “Democrats in the state Assembly agreed to a deal in the pre-dawn hours Thursday to limit debate and reach a vote, perhaps by midday, on a bill taking away public workers' collective bargaining rights,” according to a dispatch from the Associated Press.
A vote could come as soon as this afternoon, but Democrats in the state Senate remain in hiding out of state in order to block consideration of the bill. Gov. Scott Walker repeated his warnings yesterday that without a compromise, thousands of government employees could be laid off in order to close a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall over the next two years.
The stakes are also high for national groups like the Club for Growth, the AFL-CIO and Americans for Prosperity, which have been running ads on either side of the Wisconsin debate.
And the spill-over effect continues. In Indiana, for example, GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels has his own leadership challenges. Even as he got Republican state legislative leaders to drop a so-called "right to work" bill, House Democrats remain on the lam and released a list of 11 bills they want killed or altered including "two of Daniels' top legislative priorities" on school reform, according to Indianapolis Star's Mary Beth Schneider.
Gov. Daniels’ response: “We will not be bullied or blackmailed out of pursuing the agenda we laid in front of the people of Indiana.”
NOTABLE: Today the Washington Post’s Federal Eye blogger, Ed O’Keefe, takes a closer look at what services would be affected in the event of a federal government shutdown, based on a new Congressional Research Service report. Frequently asked questions include how long shutdowns typically last, what kind of work can continue, how shutdowns affect the general public and how many federal workers are likely to be affected. Here’s the answer to the last question, according to O’Keefe: “The first Clinton-era government shutdown led to the furlough of about 800,000 federal employees, according to CRS. The second shutdown furloughed about 284,000 federal employees. An untold number of federal contractors were also impacted. The federal government doesn't track the number of contractors employed by agencies.” http://wapo.st/hIm4p1
THE DOMA DECISION. The legal ramifications of President Obama’s instruction yesterday that the Justice Department stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has since 1996 banned federal recognition of same-sex unions, are already being debated. According to ABC’s Jake Tapper, Sunlen Miller and Devin Dwyer, “Legal experts said the move would likely influence judges currently weighing federal lawsuits against DOMA and a handful of challenges to same-sex marriage bans at the state level. ‘It's certainly going to be persuasive in federal courts that even the government, who had a responsibility to defend the statutes if it could find a basis for doing so, felt that a 'heightened scrutiny' does apply,’ said former George W. Bush solicitor general Ted Olson, who is leading the legal challenge against California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriages in that state. … ‘The government has decided that prevailing social views of morality are no longer sufficient to justify discrimination against homosexuals,’ said American University constitutional law professor Stephen Vladeck.” http://abcn.ws/iaBe8z
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. President Obama yesterday called the bloodshed in Libya "outrageous and unacceptable," but declined to directly censure Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi who has been blamed for much of the violent crackdown in the country. “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable, so are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters," Obama said in his first televised remarks on the situation. “These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.” http://abcn.ws/eIOhm7
Why didn’t Obama mention Gadhafi? ABC’s Jake Tapper notes that administration officials “describe the careful way President Obama is treading almost as if he were a law enforcement negotiator trying to deal with a hostage-taker: wanting to calmly back him down from the precipice of a rash and violent end, not wanting to inflame the situation. The president would have been more forceful in his comments, sources said, if the hundreds of Americans in Libya had been able to escape the country. But as of now there's a real fear Gadhafi could accuse the Americans of being spies and take them hostage. At the same time, the president is pursuing a variety of actions aimed at further isolating Gadhafi from the international community: unilateral and multilateral sanctions and a potential travel ban.” http://abcn.ws/hFNhyN
On the president’s agenda today, per ABC’s Sunlen Miller, Obama will hold the first meeting with the newly formed "President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness" at the White House. The council is chaired by Jeffrey Immelt, CEO and Chairman of General Electric. The president will also meet privately with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. In the evening, the president and the first lady will host the “The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House,” a concert celebrating Black History Month and the legacy of Motown Records. Performers include Smokey Robinson, Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow, Jamie Foxx, Gloriana, Nick Jonas, Ledisi, John Legend, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Seal and Jordin Sparks. http://abcn.ws/h1GP7H
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Amy Walter interview Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, a media and communications strategy group that promotes gay rights issues, about the Obama administration’s DOMA decision. Also on the program, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a non-profit organization that supports traditional marriage. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
TOP LINE REPLAY: RANDI WEINGARTEN. The president of the American Federation of Teachers told Top Line yesterday that governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker “would rather finger-point than solve problems.” She said: “What Walker's trying to do — he's essentially saying that public workers — teachers, nurses, firefighters — who didn’t cause this budget crisis … should be blamed for it,” Weingarten told “Top Line.” “What the governor wants is he wants to take away people's voice, and he doesn’t want anybody to be able to mount a case to defend against that.” http://abcn.ws/gTMoHk
AXE ON ROMNEY. “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would have likely been the Republican nominee for president in 2012 if not for the Tea Party infusion in the GOP, former White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Wednesday evening,” The Hill’s Michael O’Brien notes. “Axelrod, the departed administration aide who's expected to play a hand in President Obama's reelection campaign, said the GOP field was the ‘most unfathomable’ of his career. But under the old rules, Axelrod said he'd be expecting to face Romney in the general election. ‘You know, in the past, the Republican Party has traditionally had a kind of pecking order and a hierarchical system where the next guy in line is the nominee and generally, that's how it happens,’ Axelrod said on CNN's ‘John King, USA,’ pointing to the examples of past nominees John McCain, Bob Dole, and George H.W. Bush.” http://bit.ly/g3sqHs
WILL OBAMA GO TO WISCONSIN? “A liberal congressman is calling on President Barack Obama to travel to Wisconsin and to speak out more on the labor protests happening in Madison,” Politico’s Jennifer Epstein reports. “Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said Wednesday night on MSNBC that Obama ‘should come to Wisconsin and stand with the workers.’ The co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, Ellison added that he would “of course … like to hear more from President Obama” about the efforts by Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators to push through a bill that would limit collective bargaining for most state employees’ unions. … Ellison told Capitol Hill reporters on Wednesday morning that Walker was ‘basically taking on the role of a dictator’ in his handling of the ongoing Badger State controversy.” http://politi.co/f1NE5n
PAWLENTY RELEASES PRO-WALKER VIDEO. Potential presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty’s political action committee released a one-minute video in support of Gov. Walker today, featuring montage of images laying out the stakes in the the Badger State stand-off. Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, has also posted a “Stand With Scott” petition on the Freedom First PAC’s Web site. http://bit.ly/hojiq4
ARIZONA CONTINUES IMMIGRATION PUSH. “Arizona lawmakers are proposing a sweeping package of immigration restrictions that might make the controversial measures the state approved last year, which the Obama administration went to court to block, look mild,” The New York Times’ Marc Lacey reports. “Illegal immigrants would be barred from driving in the state, enrolling in school or receiving most public benefits. Their children would receive special birth certificates that would make clear that the state does not consider them Arizona citizens. Some of the bills, like those restricting immigrants’ access to schooling and right to state citizenship, flout current federal law and are being put forward to draw legal challenges in hopes that the Supreme Court might rule in the state’s favor.” http://nyti.ms/enyROi
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