Tales from the Trail

Gingrich debt ceiling advice: make Obama responsible

Newt Gingrich says he “deeply opposed” to the proposal by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for resolving the debt ceiling impasse because it cedes too much power to President Obama.

“It’s basically a surrender,” Gingrich said Tuesday on the Fox News Channel, imploring congressional Republicans to stand firm in the standoff with Obama.

Obama said on CBS that he could not guarantee Social Security checks would go out early next month if there’s no deal to raise the debt ceiling before Aug. 2nd.

Gingrich, a former House speaker who squared off with Democrat Bill Clinton in a government spending showdown in 1995, had this advice for House Republicans on dealing with Obama: “Put the shoe back on his  foot, make him responsible.” And don’t flinch.

“They’ve got to be courageous because this is hard business. This is history,” Gingrich said, defining the debt ceiling/spending cutting battle as an epic power struggle.

Washington Extra – Comfort zones

Senators are talking. The president is talking. But whether they are talking at or with each other is another question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled a Libya resolution so that senators could focus on debt issues this week, which after all was the reason why they cancelled recess.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell invited President Barack Obama to Capitol Hill to hear why a debt deal with tax increases won’t fly. And then he accepted an invitation from Obama to meet at the White House on Thursday with other congressional leaders.

Down to the wire…

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan expects his fellow Republicans to wait until the “last minute” to strike a deal that averts national default by raising the $14.3 trillion limit on the U.S. debt.

Failure to reach a deal could trigger a new global financial crisis, according to analysts and Democrats including President Barack Obama. But on Monday, the day the U.S. debt reached its current statutory limit, Ryan told an Illinois AM radio station that “we’re going to negotiate this thing probably up through July, that’s how these things go.”

“That’s how these things go” could place negotiations at the very doorstep of an Aug. 2 deadline, which is when the Treasury Department believes it will exhaust its bag of tricks for staving off a financial apocalypse.

Your credit payment is due now…

CORRECTS POLL NUMBER ON OBAMA’S HANDLING OF ECONOMY

The United States is due to hit its $14.3 trillion debt limit today, and tensions are understandably on the increase with Republicans and Democrats wide apart on the budget deal the GOP wants in exchange for increasing the ceiling.

World markets and America’s economic future could be jeopardized if negotiators still have no deal when the Treasury Department runs out of tricks to stave off default.

But do those fears a crisis make?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests not. “Rather than thinking of this as a crisis, I think of it as an opportunity to come together and those talks are under way led by the vice president.”

Bipartisanship on the White House menu

At a White House dinner with Senate and House leaders from both parties and their spouses, President Barack Obama got a standing ovation when he mentioned the demise of Osama bin Laden in his welcome.

“Last night, as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of  Osama bin Laden…” Obama said.

At that point, he was interrupted by the standing ovation.

“We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for and what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics,” Obama continued after the applause subsided.

White House shrugs off Obama comments caught on open microphone

The White House is shrugging off candid comments by President Barack Obama about private budget talks with Republicans. The next day’s message is — no big deal.

OBAMA/Obama was speaking to supporters at a political fund-raiser in Chicago after reporters left the room. But a microphone was accidentally left on and the comments were piped back to the White House press room and recorded by CBS News and ABC News.

Obama said he told House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell that they should not try to “sneak” through a provision on Planned Parenthood. “‘You guys want to have this debate? We’re happy to have that debate. We will have the debate on the floor of the Senate or the floor of the House. Put it in a separate bill. We’ll call it up. And if you think you can overturn my veto, try it,’” he said.

Washington Extra – Some explaining to do

Critics say President Barack Obama has some explaining to do.

OBAMA-BRAZIL/So tonight he plans to do just that in a speech on U.S. military involvement in Libya at the National Defense University.

One question clearly on people’s minds is when will it end? But clarity on that question is unlikely since Obama himself probably doesn’t know right now.

It’s turned into a NATO operation, which means more countries have more say in decisions — although obviously the United States remains a key player.

One Washington day is not like another for Mr. Hu

USA-CHINA/China’s President Hu Jintao was feted with full fanfare at the White House on Wednesday, with a 21-gun salute, honor guards and a state dinner. Things might not be quite so fancy on Thursday when he goes to Capitol Hill.

There he will see Republican Speaker John Boehner in the House of Representatives, then cross the Capitol to meet Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Neither bothered to attend Wednesday’s state dinner.

Also attending the House and Senate meetings will be several other lawmakers who want a word with Hu about human rights in China, as well as China’s dealings with Iran and Chinese trade practices.

Washington Extra – START not yet finished

So far, the U.S. Senate has spent six days debating New START — the strategic nuclear arms limitation treaty with Russia. Not so long, you say? Democrats are rushing it through? Well consider this, Congress has already spent longer on this agreement than it did on START I almost two decades ago — and the original is a much more complex treaty.

It is not just President Barack Obama and the Democrats who support this treaty. Former President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, supports it. So does Republican Condoleezza Rice and every other former secretary of state who is still alive. And the military? Well those folks really support it, just ask the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the uniformed officers in charge of nuclear security.mcconnell2

So what’s the problem?

“The American people don’t want us to squeeze our most important work into the final days of a session,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell argued. Republicans, it seems, think Obama and the Democrats just want to notch one last victory before Republicans take the House in January.

Washington Extra – Whose bipartisanship?

The feeling appeared mutual when President Barack Obama shook hands with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell after signing the tax cut bill. It looked like the picture of what Obama called a “bipartisan effort.”  OBAMA/TAXES-SIGNS

McConnell tried not to grin too much over the Republicans winning the war in their efforts to extend tax cuts to the wealthy.

But when it came to Capitol Hill Democrats, there wasn’t much display of unity with even Obama, let alone bipartisanship with the Republicans. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were no-shows at the bill signing.