By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
While some Democrats complained that President Obama sat on the sidelines far too long during the recent budget battle, the White House made clear over the weekend that they intend to set the tone and the pace for 2012.
Appearing on all five Sunday shows, White House adviser and 2008 Obama campaign manager David Plouffe confirmed that the president would deliver major speech later this week where he will “lay out his approach to long term deficit reduction.”
Included in this approach, said Plouffe, will be a “look at savings you might get in Medicare and Medicaid in the long term.”
With the president and House Republicans willing to touch — if not embrace — the third rail of American politics, will this take the “shock” value out of the issue in 2012?
Many Democrats think and hope that Republicans and the Tea Party will be emboldened by their $39 billion victory last week and decide to overreach when it comes to the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget.
But, if the president looks willing to compromise on this issue, can he really hope to keep his own base on his side?
The White House has had plenty of chances to tackle deficit — remember the president’s deficit commission and his State of the Union speech — but didn't. Suddenly, they seem inspired to get real on Medicare?
President Obama made a vague and passing reference to "reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit” in his State of the Union address back in January. Will his speech on Wednesday get more specific or stay in the land of the opaque?
So far, the debate over entitlement reform has been playing out on the GOP’s turf — now, Obama is attempting to put it back on his.
PLOUFFE’S TAKE ON THE BUDGET DEAL. In an interview on ABC’s “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour on Sunday, White House senior adviser David Plouffe called the cuts the Obama administration agreed to in order to avoid a government shutdown both “draconian” and “historic.”
“Some of the cuts were draconian. Because it's not just the number, it's what composes the number,” Plouffe told Amanpour. “So in this budget deal, the President, Senator Reid, you know we protected medical research, community health centers, kids in Head Start. We were not going to sign off on a deal that cut those things. … The President was comfortable with the composition of this deal that, again, there were some tough cuts in there…but in these fiscal times, everyone is going to have to make tough decisions. So it was a historic deal for the American people.” http://abcn.ws/dUGg9R
DEBT CEILING FIGHT LOOMS. ABC’s Rick Klein takes a closer look at the coming debate over whether to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, a vote that Klein points out has “worldwide implications that far exceed the worries over partial government shutdowns.”
“First, all involved in the debate at high levels recognize that a failure to raise the debt ceiling would be a monumental disaster. The United States defaulting on creditors would almost certainly crater global financial markets, as is widely and publicly acknowledged among leaders of both parties. Second, the modern history of the debt limit has been such that where politicians stand typically depends on where they sit. Tough votes to authorize more debt have traditionally fallen to the party controlling the White House. That's why then-Senator Barack Obama could vote against a higher debt ceiling in 2006 — yet warn that any similar vote would be irresponsible now that he's president in 2011. … Third, this moment represents perhaps the biggest chance for leverage over fiscal and economic matters that Republicans are likely to have so long as a Democrat controls the White House.” More from Klein on why the “president's insistence on a ‘clean’ bill that only raises the debt ceiling, without addressing government spending more broadly, is a non-starter inside the GOP-controlled House”: http://abcn.ws/hjZ6uX
TAPPER’S TAKE: WHAT HAPPENS IF THE U.S. DOESN’T RAISE THE DEBT CEILING? White House correspondent Jake Tapper tackled that question on “Good Morning America” today: By mid-May, expect the stock and bond markets to start to plummet, by July, the administration — searching for money so government could function — could impose a huge tax increase, and the following could start being curtailed or cut off: Social Security checks, Medicare benefits, Medicaid, military salaries, veterans benefits, unemployment insurance and student loan payments. House Republicans say any proposal to raise the debt ceiling from its current level of $14.3 trillion needs to include other spending cuts. If last week’s budget wrangling amounted to a grade-school slap fight, Tapper notes, the debt ceiling debate is going to be all out war. http://abcn.ws/gF78Wa
BOEHNER WEIGHS IN. House Speaker John Boehener, R-Ohio, penned an Op-Ed in USA Today addressing the ongoing spending debate, Rep. Paul Ryan’s GOP budget proposal and the coming fight over the debt ceiling: “The budget by Chairman Ryan has set the bar," Boehner wrote. "If the president is willing to follow our lead and offer serious proposals that address the drivers of our debt and the barriers that are holding back our economy, we'll welcome it, and we're open to hearing them. … So far, the president has only outlined an irresponsible budget that would impose a job-crushing $1.5 trillion tax hike, add $9.1 trillion to the debt over the next decade, and do nothing to address our autopilot spending. … President Obama also wants a debt limit increase, but says spending cuts and budget reforms shouldn't be attached to it. Americans will not stand for that. We must follow their will.” http://usat.ly/dKnhGt
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Amy Walter and Rick Klein welcome freshman Congressman David Cicilline, D-R.I., via Skype and Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent from The Washington Examiner. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
TIM PAWLENTY HIRES A CAMPAIGN MANAGER. The Pawlenty's Presidential Exploratory committee announced today that it has a new leader: Nick Ayers, 28, the former Executive Director of the Republican Governors Association. “Mary and I worked alongside Nick at the RGA. He is without question one of the best political talents in America,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in a statement. “We are very excited Nick will lead our team.” His hire by Pawlenty was seen as something of a coup since Ayers has a close relationship with another potential presidential candidate — Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Ayers helped draft the RGA’s four-year political plan starting in 2007. During his time at the helm, he led a successful fundraising effot and managed a $112 million budget. (Gov. Barbour served as chairman of the RGA from 2009-2010.) After his time at the RGA, Ayers was tapped to help oversee the Republican National Committee’s transition team by newly-elected RNC chairman Reince Priebus. Before joining the RGA, Ayers ran Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s 2006 re-election campaign. Ayers plans re-locate to Minneapolis — headquarters for the Pawlenty presidential effort — and begin his new job on April 25.
FLASHBACK: The Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz’s April 2010 profile of Ayers: http://wapo.st/dBvToE
OLYMPIAN CARL LEWIS IS RUNNING — FOR NEW JERSEY STATE SENATE. “Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis is planning to run for New Jersey Senate,” the Associated Press report. “A state Democratic Party official says Lewis will announce his candidacy on Monday. Lewis has called a 2 p.m. news conference in Burlington County to announce his "political plans." His advisory, issued Sunday night, contained no specific details. However, a party official speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to upstage the 49-year-old Lewis, says the civic activist and four-time medalist plans to run in the 8th legislative district. The seat is now held by Republican Dawn Addiego. Monday is the filing deadline for anyone who wants to run for the New Jersey Legislature. All 120 seats of the Senate and Assembly will be on November's ballot. Both houses are controlled by Democrats.” http://bit.ly/i0dH5s
PALIN DEFENDS TRUMP’S BIRTHER CLAIMS. “Over the weekend, Sarah Palin defended real estate mogul Donald Trump's right to raise doubts about President Obama's place of birth,” ABC’s Kevin Dolak and John Berman note. "I appreciate that the Donald wants to spend his resources on something that so interests him and so many Americans, you know more power to him," Palin said Sunday on the ‘Judge Jeanine’ show on Fox News. The former Alaska governor's remarks on Sunday seems to signal a shift in her opinions on the ‘birther’ issue. Long ago, the president did release a ‘certificate of live birth’ which many non-partisan watchdog groups say definitively proves he was born in the U.S.” http://abcn.ws/efQUuT
NEW HAMPSHIRE DEMOCRATS ‘THANK’ MITT ROMNEY. “Northeast Democrats will be at their most creative today and tomorrow, as they aim to tweak Republican Mitt Romney in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts universal health care law,” the Boston Globe’s Glen Johnson writes. “New Hampshire Democrats are sending out an email at 9 a.m. today, urging their supporters to flood Romney's official Twitter handle, @MittRomney, with thanks and congratulations for a piece of legislation that is anathema to many of his fellow conservatives across the country. The 2006 Massachusetts law, signed while Romney was governor of the state, became the model for the 2010 federal universal health care law signed by President Obama, the Democrat he hopes to face in next year's presidential race.” http://bo.st/eRbNjr
“Five years ago, Mitt Romney laid the foundation for President Obama's Affordable Care Act,” according to the email. “Without Romney, it's hard to see how President Obama would have been able to provide quality, affordable health care for every American.” http://bit.ly/gx935O
AMERICAN ACTION NETWORK GETS NEW LEADERSHIP. The American Action Network, a conservative group that spent millions during the 2010 election cycle, has named former National Republican Congressional Committee Political Director Brian O. Walsh as its new president. Previous AAN president Rob Collins is stepping down to “pursue other opportunities, but will remain involved in an advisory role,” according to a press release. “A little over a year ago Rob joined us from Eric Cantor’s office and Rob’s vision and leadership was the catalyst for the Network’s incredibly successful first year,” said former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, AAN’s CEO. Coleman called Walsh “one of the premier grassroots organizers around the country,” adding that he “has a matchless knowledge of the House and Senate. Brian’s experience at the NRCC, as a Congressional chief of staff and as a press secretary makes him an excellent fit for the Network.”
@JamesRichardson: Some stops on Haley's NH swing: Breakfast at Chez Vachon, Riley’s Gun Shop and reception with Greater Manchester Federation of GOP Women.
@kendramarr: I'm engaged!
* As part of the Family Leader's Presidential Lecture Series, Michele Bachmann will speak at Dordt College, Pella Christian High School and University of Iowa in Des Moines, Iowa.
* Ron Paul will speak earlier in the day at a Family Leader event in Iowa.
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