The Note: The Making Of A ‘Satan Sandwich’

Aug 2, 2011 9:13am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

It was messy, it was complicated and, in the end, it was simply unpalatable to some lawmakers.

But the budget plan that one liberal Democrat now famously called a “Satan sandwich” and that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told ABC’s Diane Sawyer yesterday probably came with a side of “Satan fries,” appears headed for passage in the Senate today after clearing that hurdle in the House of Representatives last night by a vote of 269 to 161.

The bill would increase the government's borrowing power by up to $2.4 trillion through 2013, impose nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade and set up a special congressional committee (nicknamed the “super committee”) process to recommend up to $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction by Thanksgiving.

The Senate plans to debate the debt ceiling increase this morning and a roll call vote on the compromise plan is expected at 12 noon Eastern with a 60-vote threshold needed for passage. Then, the bill will head straight to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

“We have to get this over with,” Pelosi told Sawyer in an interview in Washington yesterday. “We have to get to work putting people back to work. We've got to get on with job creation.”

And after an intense period of partisan strife that lasted several months, lawmakers from both parties swallowed hard on an agreement that no one particularly liked but a majority regarded as essential to avoiding default on the nation’s debt obligations — a deadline that still looms just hours from now.

In a poignant moment on the House floor, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to the chamber for the first time since being shot in January to cast her “yes” vote for the bill. “The Capitol looks beautiful tonight,” she wrote on Twitter, “and I am honored to be at work tonight.”

Vice President Joe Biden, who showed up on Capitol Hill last night for the vote, described an almost surreal scene: “Here I'm hugging Gabby and Michele Bachmann,” he told reporters.

But, this being Washington, the momentary bipartisanship quickly subsided. Rep. Bachmann, R-Minn., distributed a late-night fundraising message for her presidential campaign saying that Biden “should be ashamed of himself” for allegedly calling conservative lawmakers “terrorists" yesterday.

“Only in the bizarro world of Washington is fiscal responsibility sometimes defined as terrorism,” Bachmann wrote to her supporters. (A spokeswoman for the Vice President denied that Biden ever used that word.)

And despite Pelosi’s contention that “we've got to get on with job creation,” this deal isn't going to create any new jobs. In fact, there are many economists who are predicting that the deal will actually make the problem worse.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos raised that possibility in an interview with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner yesterday, noting that despite the agreement, some economists estimate that a potential downgrade in the country’s credit rating could could cost us $75 billion a year in interest costs and 600,000 jobs.

“If Americans, or investors around the world, lose confidence in the capacity of Washington to deal with our challenges then what you'll see is higher interest rates for all Americans,” Geithner said. “And when interest rates rise, that's like a tax on all Americans.”

BOTTOM LINE: Both Republicans and Democrats like the idea of making this upcoming election a “choice” between two differing versions of governing. But, ultimately this election, like all elections, is a referendum on the person in charge. And President Obama is leading a country with 9.2 percent unemployment. Until and unless that number changes and people in this country feel better about their economic situation, Obama's re-election chances are in serious peril.


HOW THEY VOTED. From ABC’s John R. Parkinson: 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats supported the bill, including the top Democratic leadership — Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn. Sixty-six Republicans voted against the measure, while 95 Democrats opposed it as well. Twenty-nine tea party-supported freshmen opposed the bill. Two presidential candidates — Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul voted against the bill. One Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Thad McCotter, voted in favor of the measure.


GEITHNER: ‘SPECTACLE’ IN WASHINGTON HAS DAMAGED THE ECONOMY. More from George Stephanopoulos’ interview with the Treasury Secretary: “I think confidence here was absolutely very damaged by this spectacle they’ve seen in Washington of a significant number of elected officials in this country threatening default,” Geither said. George asked Geithner if the way the debate unfolded made a credit downgrade from AAA rating likely? “I don't know. It's hard to tell. I think this is a good result, but a terrible process,” he said. “And again– again, I think as the world watched Congress step up to the edge of the abyss, it made them really wonder whether this place can work.”


GIFFORDS RETURNS. ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Sunlen Miller describe the scene on Capitol Hill last night: Giffords slowly entered the chamber to loud, sustained applause and a standing ovation by her colleagues, who huddled around her to give hugs, kisses and handshakes.  Vice President Joe Biden, with a big smile on his face, walked to the House floor and said, "I came to see Gabby, that's why I'm here." In the hallway just outside, Giffords' husband Mark Kelly was all smiles as well.  "It feels good," he said as his wife was casting her first vote since the tragedy. "Great actually." “It was above and beyond the call of duty,” Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said of Giffords she was leaving the House floor today. “She’s a heroine … an inspiration.” Pelosi said she had known Giffords was coming to the Hill for this vote for some time, but didn’t want to say anything until it happened. The two spent some time on the floor talking this evening. “We had our girl talk. Had girls' hugs and all of that. So it was pretty thrilling, personally and officially,” Pelosi said. “She honored us with her presence.” VIDEO:

WILL SHE RUN AGAIN? Jonathan Karl hears from Rep. Giffords spokesman that she has not made a decision on whether to seek re-election. "The Congresswoman is focused on her recovery. Nothing has changed,” the spokesman told ABC News.


TEA PARTY TALK ON DEBT DEAL. ABC’s Diane Sawyer yesterday reconvened a panel of Tea Party freshman who we first met in January just as they were joining the new Congress. The members were divided on how they voted on the debt-limit bill but told Sawyer they remained united by their principles. "We're in the same book, we're in the same chapter," Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., said. "Some might be a little bit farther ahead than others. But we're all going down the road of fiscal discipline and fiscal responsibility." Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., explained that while the deal was not what he wants, it was better than nothing. "We don't control the Senate, we don't control the presidency, we have to crawl before we walk to some extent. But I think we've already made some historic gains. We've changed the debate in a historic way. This is the first time we're gonna raise the debt ceiling in our history by imposing more cuts than the raise of the debt ceiling," he told Sawyer. "I think we have to accept that fact that imposing our will on this president is not an option.” More from Diane’s Tea Party roundtable:  Full transcript:


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: SPECIAL DEBT DEAL EDITION.  ABC’s Amy Walter and Rick Klein will anchor a special half-hour edition of “Top Line,” bringing you live coverage of the Senate vote. They’ll also welcome several special guests to look back at the debt ceiling negotiations, analyze the final agreement and talk about the formation of the so-called super committee, which will be charged with recommending further deficit reductions in the coming months. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.   


WHAT COMES NEXT? “The compromise plan that is making its way to President Obama’s desk … also revives the debate that just ended, with Thanksgiving and Christmas deadlines to boot,” the Daily Beast’s Jill Lawrence writes in a preview of things to come. “Phase one of the two-step deficit-reduction deal involves about $1 trillion in spending cuts. That’s simple compared with phase two — the one with the holiday deadlines — in which a 12-member bipartisan committee of senators and House members is supposed to come up with $1.5 trillion in further deficit reduction. The third rails of each party — tax hikes and entitlement cuts — are now charged and dangerous. Will Republicans go for tax reform that yields additional money for the government? Will Democrats allow entitlement reform that reduces future Medicare or Social Security benefits? Will ‘my way or the highway’ be preferable to automatic cuts in defense and Medicare that would be triggered by failure? And how will all this play out the year before a presidential election? … Democratic strategist Mark Mellman says there is potential for the bipartisan committee to conclude, as several bipartisan debt commissions did, that both spending cuts and new tax revenues are needed to ease ongoing structural deficits. But there’s a catch: It may need to ditch the circus atmosphere for an ivory tower. … ‘I think it’s going to be pretty rough,’ says Republican strategist John Feehery, once a senior aide to former speaker Denny Hastert. For a start, Feehery predicts, lobbyists will spend the next few months in a frantic state. ‘There are a lot of interests that are going to get skewered if they don’t act,’ he says.”


HOW THE DEAL WAS DONE. The New York Times’ Jackie Calmes and Jennifer Steinhauer tell the backstory: “ Last Friday night, President Obama called Speaker John A. Boehner just after the Republican House leader had gotten his rebellious Republicans, on the third effort, to pass legislation to address the debt crisis. ‘Congratulations on finally getting your bill through,’ Mr. Obama said, according to a Democrat familiar with the conversation. ‘You know you’re not going to get through the Senate, so now we need to focus on a solution.’ Roughly 48 hours later, at 8:15 on Sunday night, the president again called Mr. Boehner from the Oval Office. ‘Do we have a deal?’ Mr. Obama asked, then stopped abruptly. His senior advisers, standing nearby, gathered that Mr. Boehner had interrupted the president, and they braced for confirmation of the worst in Mr. Obama’s next words. Instead, there was relief. … In between those two calls was a weekend of nonstop horse-trading, from a windowless Capitol basement room to the Oval Office, over a deal to increase the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling and reduce future budget deficits. There were flashes of hope and heart-stopping moments when failure — and a government default on its bills — seemed inevitable. Anticipated since Republicans won control of the House last November, the showdown was proving the ultimate test of divided government; success hinged largely on Mr. Boehner’s uncompromising House Republicans’ providing enough votes to approve the deal and make sure it got to Mr. Obama by Tuesday midnight, the administration’s deadline for raising the debt ceiling, or very soon after. Pivotal to the final deal-making was the Republican minority leader in the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell, and his back-channel talks with his former Senate colleague, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.”



PAGING MITT ROMNEY.Call it the Mittness Protection Program. Through the hot summer of 2011, the front-runner for the Republican nomination has been in hiding,” writes Politico’s Ben Smith. “Romney was hit repeatedly by his opponents and the Democrats for refusing to offer an opinion on the debt deal until twelve hours after Congressional leaders accepted it – but that’s just been the most obvious example of a campaign that’s keeping the candidate far from the front lines and the headlines. Romney has been missing from the fields of Iowa, swamps of South Carolina, beaches of Florida, and even the mountains near his summer home in New Hampshire — everywhere you’d expect a presidential candidate to go. Since his June 2 campaign launch, he’s done only about 24 public or semi-public events – an average of slightly more than one event every three days, or well below half the rate of Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman. That includes just one last week. He has none scheduled for this week. Those numbers, if anything, slightly exaggerate the time his campaign has devoted to retail appearances in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Romney has been acting more as a full-time fundraiser and occasional candidate, and many of his stops — like the most recent two in Los Angeles and Ohio — are tacked on to his fundraising schedule. This is hardly your traditional Rose Garden campaign, in which a strong incumbent or frontrunner molds politics to follow his non-political day job. … And while his advisers describe the decision as a strategic choice to pick only the big fights, it has obvious negative consequences: Romney’s identity remains hazy, voters remain unmet, and his rare appearances raise the stakes for gaffe free — or at least vaguely normal — performances.”

HOW OBAMA FARES IN PENNSYLVANIA.President Obama has seen his popularity dip significantly in the pivotal swing state of Pennsylvania and is now tied in matchups with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released early Tuesday,” the National Journal’s Stephen Shepard reports.  “A majority of Keystone State voters now disapproves of the job Obama is doing as president. Just 43 percent of voters approve of his job performance, while 54 percent disapprove. That marks a significant decline from mid-June, when voters were split evenly on Obama. Romney holds a 44-42 percent lead over Obama, reversing a seven-point edge for the president in June. Santorum now trails Obama, 45 percent to 43 percent; in June, he trailed by 11 points. Santorum's mini-surge comes from his base in western Pennsylvania. He posts a 24-point lead in the southwest portion of the state, and he also leads by double-digits in the central and northwest sections of the state, nearly overcoming Obama's leads in the eastern half of the Keystone State, including Philadelphia and its suburbs. Republicans prefer Romney over Santorum, however, 21 percent to 14 percent.”

PALIN SLAMS BIDEN OVER ALLEGED REMARK.Add Sarah Palin to the list of people criticizing Vice President Joe Biden for allegedly saying that conservative tea party lawmakers ‘acted like terrorists’ during the debt-ceiling negotiations,” ABC’s Sheila Marikar reports. “‘I think we're getting kind of used to being called names — racists, inciters of violence, being accused of things that we having nothing to do with,’ she said on Greta Van Susteren's Fox News show tonight. ‘I suppose it's a bit more appalling to have been called acting like terrorists by he who is second in command of the most powerful office in the world. It's quite appalling. It proves how out of touch this White House is.’ The former Alaska governor and tea party activist added: ‘To be called a terrorist because of our beliefs from the vice president, it's quite appalling, it's quite vile.’”

RICK PERRY WATCH. ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports: Rick Perry continues his dinners with potential donors this week, and in an e-mail obtained by the Washington Post, a fundraiser invitation tells donors the Texas governor is “poised to enter” the race for president.  “Texas Gov. Perry is poised to enter the presidential race in the coming weeks and, if he does, will completely transform the Republican primary,” Jim Lee, former finance chairman for Perry’s gubernatorial campaign, said in an e-mail to donors. “Ours will be a condensed and unconventional strategy yet we have a clear path to the nomination.”  Amid these donor meetings, the Texas governor is preparing for the National Day of Prayer in Houston on Saturday, though it is still unclear if he will speak.  As the House passed a debt ceiling deal on Monday evening, a spokesman said Perry would not endorse the plan.  “The governor thinks the right track to go down is ‘cut, cap and balance.’ That was the approach he believed was best for the country,” Mark Miner, spokesman for Gov. Perry, said.  

WILL WE SEE PERRY IN IOWA NEXT WEEK? Don’t bet on it. A source close to Perry tells ABC News that the Texas governor has no plans to travel to the Hawkeye State during the week of the Iowa GOP/Fox News debate and the Ames Straw Poll.


THE NOTE’S RECIPE BOOK: SATAN SANDWICHES. ABC’s Sarah Parnass reports from the Note’s kitchen.


NOTED: CALL FOR INTERNS. The Note and the ABC Political Unit are in the market for interns for the Fall of 2011. We require actively enrolled students and we prefer applicants who are spending the semester in DC and can commit a regular 9-5 schedule. E-mail a resume and cover letter to



@daveweigel: Hola, writers of lazy narratives: Most GOP frosh and Tea Party caucuses backed deal.

@rickklein: we now have enough metaphors to make a meal. your Slurpee served with Satan sandwich and side of Satan fries.

@samsteinhp: mixed reviews 4 suggestion that 1 party shld pick the other's super-committee members. how abt this: commt members can't run for reelection?

@TomBevanRCP: Bill Galston has it right: Obama made big mistake not endorsing his own debt commission's recs last year.

@TheFix: A nice look at Rick Perry's inner circle from @rossramsey.



(all times local)

* Tim Pawlenty will attend a Tampa Meet and Greet at Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa, Florida at 4 p.m. Pawlenty's wife, Mary, speaks at Blake's Family Restaurant in Manchester, N.H. at 8:30 a.m. before touring the Greater Nashua YMCA at 2:15 p.m.

* Rick Santorum visits Indianola, Des Moines, Perry, Jefferson, Carroll and Atlantic as part of his Santorum Family Tour.

* Jon Huntsman tours Citronics and meets with employees at noon in Milford, N.H.


 The Note Futures Calendar:


* Get The Note delivered to your inbox every day.

* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog:

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus