By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
When President Obama outlines his plan for reducing the ballooning national deficit in a speech this afternoon, he will talk about keeping domestic spending low, cutting the Pentagon budget, finding health care savings in Medicare and Medicaid and increasing taxes for high-income Americans, among other things.
“The President will advocate a balanced approach to controlling out of control deficits and restoring fiscal responsibility while protecting the investments we need to grow our economy, create jobs, and win the future,” an Obama administration official said, previewing the speech. “The President’s proposal will build off of the deficit reduction measures included in his 2012 budget and will borrow from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission he created.”
ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper points out that Republicans have already called tax hikes a “non-starter.” Obama plans to contrast his vision with that of House Budget Committee Chairman Rep Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who has offered his own budget proposal. The president will say that you can cut taxes for the wealthy while attempting deficit reduction, but it can only be done by reducing or eliminating health care for seniors and the poor, cutting education by 25 percent and gutting Clean Air protections. http://abcn.ws/dZR86t
“The President will make clear that while we all share the goal of reducing our deficit and putting our nation back on a fiscally responsible path,” the administration official added, “his vision is one where we can live within our means without putting burdens on the middle class and seniors or impeding our ability to invest in our future.”
It is, in part, at attempt by the White House to appease liberals from whom they already face a “growing rebellion” as the Washington Post notes today. Leaders of powerful left-leaning groups are concerned Obama has “given up political ground to Republicans,” the Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb and Peter Wallsten report, and “activists on Tuesday threatened to sit out the 2012 presidential campaign if Obama goes too far with further cuts.” http://wapo.st/gvFYuD
On the other side of the aisle, Congressman Ryan told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today, “I’m glad the president’s joining the conversation. We had the fiscal commission which he disavowed until now … We are bringing our budget to the floor Thursday, voting on it Friday.” http://abcn.ws/goNNpR
Ryan added, “Default is not our option or strategy. We need to have real spending cuts with spending controls in combination with the debt increase and I don’t accept a notion that that’s not possible.”
BOTTOM LINE: In some ways it looks like we are headed into new territory — both parties are seriously discussing how to rein in deficit spending and entitlements. But, in others, it looks like more of the same political rhetoric and familiar battle lines that have defined our politics for years. Democrats label Republicans as heartless and reckless, while Republicans call Democrats tax-loving liberals.
But have both sides overplayed these arguments in recent years — so much so that they just don't carry the same bite they once did? One smart pollster told The Note, “I am finding that Independents are tuning this stuff out more and more. Same old, same old.”
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. President Obama will deliver his fiscal policy speech at the George Washington University starting at 1:35 p.m. ET. Before that, the president and Vice President Joe Biden will host a meeting with bipartisan House and Senate leadership in the Cabinet Room to brief them on what he will say. Expected attendees include House Speaker John Boehner, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Eric Cantor, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Jon Kyl. (h/t ABC’s Sunlen Miller). http://abcn.ws/f7UH7y
CAN THE ‘GANG OF SIX’ RESCUE THE COUNTRY? “Somewhere between the left – President Obama's speech today on debt reduction — and the right – House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan's budget proposal — lies a middle ground: a bipartisan group of senators working quietly to strike a deal on how to rein in the country's soaring deficit,” ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports. “They are called the Gang of Six: Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Mark Warner of Virginia and Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Mike Crapo of Idaho. For the past few months the six lawmakers have sought to come up with a plan to slash the nation's deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. ‘These discussions are at a sensitive point, and the six senators are very, very close to agreement on a framework for moving forward,’ a Democratic aide told ABC News. ‘It appears unlikely that it will occur until after we return from the upcoming recess.’ If the Gang of Six does manage to reach an agreement on a plan, it is likely to address hotly-contested issues like reforming entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and revamping the country's tax code. It is also expected to propose further reductions in domestic discretionary spending.” http://abcn.ws/fgQMkw
IS THE DEBT PROBLEM SOLVABLE? ABC News asked a variety of experts to weigh in on one simple question — Is the debt problem solvable? — and we got several different and often opposing viewpoints. The answers range from "cut spending" to "raise taxes" to "change Medicare" to "don't worry so much about it." http://abcn.ws/eLBmmw
Here’s a sampling:
“From a policy perspective, we need to engage in entitlement reforms, cut and constrain defense and other spending, and engage in comprehensive tax reform,” wrote David Walker, CEO of the Comeback America Initiative, and the former U.S. Comptroller General. “From a political perspective, everything needs to be on the table and everyone needs to be at the table in order to get the job done.”
Grover Norquist, head of Americans For Tax Reform: “Spending reduction only comes by going over the heads of the lobbyists and their co-dependent collaborators in the appropriations committees. Reagan did this in 1981 and cut 13 percent of domestic discretionary spending — twice the size of the 6 percent cut just agreed to last Friday night.”
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl welcome Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Nebraska. Also on the show, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
“TOP LINE” REPLAY: ADAM KINZINGER. The Illinois freshman Republican Congressman discussed his support for the budget deal reached last week on “Top Line” yesterday. “You could always cut more. We always want bigger cuts — we always want more,” Kinzinger said. “But given the situation…given what we've been looking at — and this is the largest decrease since World War II — this is the opening salvo.” On the budget proposal by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, Kinzinger said, “I'm definitely leaning towards doing it. This is a very bold vision that I think has been outlined. It's politically risky. There's no doubt about it. This is a risky vote,” he said. “But the American people and the people in the 11th District did not send me here to make easy votes, to do politically easy things. They sent me here to make tough decisions. And this is it.” http://abcn.ws/eMcg1s
#WINNING: LOBBYISTS AND THE BUDGET DEAL. “At a quarter till midnight last Friday, with a deal to avert a government shutdown barely an hour old, Senator Harry Reid phoned a fellow Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, at home and startled him with some bad news. ‘You lost free-choice vouchers,’ Mr. Wyden recalls Mr. Reid telling him,” The New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau reports. “Even delivered in shorthand, the call’s meaning was clear to Mr. Wyden: a health care plan he had succeeded in getting passed months earlier despite furious lobbying by big business and labor had been pulled out of the blue and killed as part of the broader budget deal struck between the White House and Congress. ‘I was flabbergasted, just flabbergasted,’ Mr. Wyden, of Oregon, said Tuesday … With $38 billion in cuts on the line in a $3.5 trillion budget, the clash over federal spending played out in numbers so big that most standard calculators had trouble tracking all the zeros. But in the end, a handful of relatively small-bore line items affecting particular industries attracted some of the most aggressive lobbying behind the scenes, as business interests, health care providers and others fought to hold on to, or kill, proposals that affected their bottom line.” http://nyti.ms/dQWVqt
HOYER MOVES TOWARD BOEHNER ON DEBT. “House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is reaching out directly to Speaker John Boehner on the debt limit, a sign that the No. 2 Democrat is trying to become a deal maker on a vote that threatens to become the Armageddon of spending fights,” Politico’s John Bresnahan reports. “Hoyer’s maneuvering is the latest sign that he’s trying to carve out his own power position in the GOP-dominated House and emerge from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s long shadow. In a letter Tuesday, Hoyer urged the speaker to find a bipartisan solution to approve an increase in the borrowing authority for the federal government, and he held out the possibility of working with Boehner on a debt limit deal if the Ohio Republican resists calls from conservatives for dramatic spending cuts or efforts to gut Medicare and Social Security.” http://politi.co/foLkKg
TEA PARTY MOMENTUM WANING? “For the first time since the tea party movement began two years ago, its members have not announced plans to storm the National Mall with “Don’t Tread on Me” flags on April 15,” Roll Call’s Ambreen Ali writes. “No tea party groups have applied for permits at the popular protest locale that day, according to the National Park Service. In the past, Tax Day rallies with thousands of small-government advocates served as a symbolic show of force against Democratic control. Now that Republicans control the House, the fervor for national protest appears to have waned. ‘It’s a little harder on offense. On defense, it’s more unifying. You’re simply saying no,’ said Tim Phillips, president of the conservative nonprofit Americans for Prosperity.” http://bit.ly/gbLFab
JOHN KERRY, JOHN MCCAIN HEALING 2008 CAMPAIGN RIFT. “During the 2004 presidential campaign, Senator John Kerry thought so highly of Senator John McCain that the Democratic presidential nominee broached the idea of joining forces with the Arizona Republican on a bipartisan White House ticket,” the Boston Globe’s Glen Johnson notes. “Fast-forward to 2008, when McCain himself was the GOP presidential nominee: It was hard to imagine a sharper split between him and Kerry, his fellow Vietnam War veteran and Senate compatriot. … Four years hence, the two appear to have soothed any hostilities. Kerry and McCain strode together yesterday into a Senate news studio to jointly announce a bipartisan bill that would require companies tracking Internet users to ensure they protect personal information. … The reconciliation was evident when Kerry stepped to the microphone yesterday in the Capitol, with none of the contempt that permeated his 2008 convention speech. ‘I'm delighted to join my friend, my colleague John McCain today as we introduce important legislation with respect to privacy,’ he said.” http://bo.st/fxE6bk
SANTORUM MOVING TOWARD EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE. “Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) appears poised to move a step closer to an official 2012 presidential campaign Wednesday night,” The Hill’s Shane D’Aprile notes. “The former senator is expected to make a "big announcement" during an interview with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren and could announce the formation of a presidential exploratory committee. Santorum has already publicly committed to two early presidential debates, but to participate in a May 5 debate in South Carolina, candidates must have officially formed exploratory committees or formally declared a presidential candidacy. Should Santorum take that step Wednesday, he would be the fifth GOP hopeful to formally file paperwork for an exploratory committee. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer and conservative talk host Herman Cain all have official committees.” http://bit.ly/efy0Vt
TRUMP LOOKING FOR INVESTORS…IN 2012. “Donald Trump may be rich, but if he decides to run for president, he plans to ask voters to ‘invest’ in his candidacy,” USA Today’s Jackie Kucinich writes. “Trump has said repeatedly that he is willing to spend $600 million of his personal fortune to run for president, but to meet the $1 billion price tag for a 2012 campaign, even he will ask for campaign donations. ‘If I run, I’ll absolutely (raise funds). I think it’s important for voters to invest in the direction of the country,’ Trump said in an interview Tuesday with USA TODAY. His success in a series of polls from a variety of large news organizations has left political observers explaining why the business mogul and reality star suddenly seems like a viable candidate.” http://usat.ly/dNzBAt
@danbalz: "Exploratory" gives candidates two bites at the apple–filing and formally announcing. But filing includes declaration of candidacy.
* Haley Barbour will be in Bow, New Hampshire for a reception at the private residence of Jayne and Shawn Millerick at 7 PM
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