How Dangerous Is the Rift Among Democrats?

Congressional Democrats have denied Obama twice in as many weeks, and that bodes poorly for a White House prepping for fiscal fights.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speak outside the West Wing of the White House following a meeting between President Barack Obama and Congressional leadership to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
National Journal
Nancy Cook
Sept. 17, 2013, 8:29 a.m.

Re­mem­ber that split among con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans on fisc­al strategy? Well, now it seems the Demo­crats have the mak­ings of a sim­il­ar prob­lem.

In re­cent weeks, con­gres­sion­al D’s have been un­char­ac­ter­ist­ic­ally in­de­pend­ent, break­ing with their lead­er­ship and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. First they op­posed mil­it­ary ac­tion in Syr­ia, warn­ing the pres­id­ent they would deny his re­quest to strike. And then came Larry Sum­mers, who was brought down by a hand­ful of Sen­ate Demo­crats who let the White House know they would not con­firm him as Fed chief.

All this bodes quite poorly for Pres­id­ent Obama (and Harry Re­id and Nancy Pelosi) as the spend­ing and debt fights ap­proach.

If Obama’s ad­visers take any­thing away from the Syr­ia and Sum­mers epis­odes, Cap­it­ol Hill aides and law­makers sug­gest it should be the mes­sage that Demo­crats are not go­ing to get in line with a budget deal that com­prom­ises their lib­er­al po­s­i­tions. No longer should the White House feel free, as it has in the past, to con­sider tweaks to pro­grams like Medi­care or So­cial Se­cur­ity, for in­stance (un­less, of course, Re­pub­lic­ans agree to ex­tract more money from tax­pay­ers).

Re­id and one of his primary depu­ties, Sen. Patty Mur­ray, con­tin­ue to op­pose the “chained CPI” pro­pos­al that would change the way gov­ern­ment be­ne­fits are cal­cu­lated and make them less gen­er­ous — one of the ideas the pres­id­ent offered up in past budget ne­go­ti­ations. House Demo­crats largely are not in fa­vor of one of the pres­id­ent’s oth­er pre­vi­ous budget of­fers — to cut Medi­care by $400 bil­lion.

These con­ces­sions would be an in­cred­ibly hard sell to Demo­crats dur­ing a year where the coun­try’s an­nu­al de­fi­cit con­tin­ues to fall, says a House Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship aide.

“A lot of our mem­bers were con­cerned about the drift of the ne­go­ti­ations dur­ing the fisc­al cliff,” the aide said. “Our sense is that any deal this fall would not be as large so there is not as much of a ne­ces­sity to of­fer up those items.”

The White House hasn’t ruled those items out though; it’s not really even en­ga­ging in the dis­cus­sion at all yet. If law­makers start to draw lines in the sand, the pres­id­ent will have few­er tools to use and few­er levers to pull to score a deal that keeps the gov­ern­ment run­ning and the United States cur­rent on its debt.

Demo­crats hope it doesn’t come to that — and many think it will not. The pro­spects for a ma­jor budget deal are so slim, they say, that the pres­id­ent will not get to the point of of­fer­ing any deal-sweeten­ers that con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats dis­like, like Medi­care cuts or chained CPI.

Demo­crat­ic Rep. Chris Van Hol­len says the White House, for weeks, has prom­ised House Demo­crats that it would only of­fer these cuts as part of a ma­jor budget deal. Now, that elu­sive grand bar­gain seems un­likely, giv­en the short time frame of the fall’s fisc­al battles and over­all budget fa­tigue. “It’s all a moot point,” says Van Hol­len, a close ally to the White House on fisc­al mat­ters. “The Re­pub­lic­ans have re­fused to raise one penny of rev­en­ue for the pur­pose of re­du­cing the de­fi­cit. They are not even talk­ing about it.”

In the end, that may be the greatest force unit­ing Demo­crats. While they don’t agree on the par­tic­u­lars of budget polit­ics, they can come to­geth­er around their dis­dain for the House Re­pub­lic­ans and their at­tempts to cast them as ex­treme lead­ing up to the debt ceil­ing fight.

“I think the pres­id­ent con­tin­ues to en­joy broad-based sup­port on our side of the aisle,” says House Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er. “I think there is nobody in the Demo­crat­ic Party who wants to shut down the gov­ern­ment — the pres­id­ent cer­tainly does not want to shut down the gov­ern­ment. I think we’re talk­ing about tac­tics to make sure we don’t do that.”

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
2 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×