The Edge: Cynicism or Humility? Obama Is Up to Something

National Journal Staff

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Cynicism or Humility? Obama Is Up to Something

President Obama is trolling Capitol Hill for compromise on debt and deficit reduction, but some of his advisers are dubious that schmoozing stubborn Republicans will do any good.

“This is a joke. We’re wasting the president’s time and ours,” complained a senior White House official who was promised anonymity so he could speak frankly. “I hope you all [in the media] are happy, because we’re doing it for you.”

Another said the president was sincerely trying to find common ground with stubborn Republicans. “But if we do it,” the aide hastened to add, “it won’t be because we had steaks and Merlot with a few senators.”

Obama has broken bread with Republican senators and with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. He is making multiple trips to Capitol Hill this week. And he is granting an interview to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic consultant.

Something has gotten into Obama this week—and it’s better than nothing. Read more

Ron Fournier


AFTER APPARENT DEAL, GOV'T FUNDING BILL STALLS IN SENATE. Top lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee reached a deal late Monday on a $984 billion government funding bill that would avert a government shutdown at the end of this month, The Hill reports. But on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the spending bill had stalled over Republican complaints that there had not been enough time to study it. To reach a deal, Mikulski abandoned her push to give the president broader power to implement the sequester. Despite the complaints, the bill is expected to eventually pass ahead of the deadline. Read more

SENATE BUDGET TO INCLUDE SPENDING CUTS AND REVENUE HIKES. Senate Democrats plan to release a budget Wednesday that will cut $1 trillion in spending and raise $1 trillion in revenue over the next decade, according to The Wall StreetJournal. Politico reports that the budget proposes fast-track tax-reform provisions. House Republicans released a competing plan Tuesday that would cut $4.6 trillion in spending over the next 10 years. Read more

  • The White House said Tuesday to expect its late-as-usual budget to arrive the week of April 8.

WHAT RYAN’S BUDGET MEANS FOR ENTITLEMENTS. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget is once again full of the politically fraught health care policies that have made his previous budgets big events. This year’s version basically sticks to last year’s script when it comes to health care. It would make big cuts to Medicaid right away, and would postpone cuts to Medicare for 10 years. National Journal’s Margot Sanger-Katz reports on what Ryan's budget would mean for health entitlement programs. On Tuesday, the White House criticized the budget by saying the numbers don’t add up. Read more

  • Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of tax breaks because they’re just too adorable: take the tax break on Girl Scout cookies, as National Journal’s Ben Terris reports.

FILIBUSTER THREAT LOOMS OVER CORDRAY. Richard Cordray, Obama’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its interim director, played second fiddle to the bureau itself at a confirmation hearing today before the Senate Banking Committee, CBS News reports. Republicans have threatened to block Cordray’s nomination unless the agency is restructured and have its funding controlled by Congress, moves that consumer groups and Democrats oppose. Cordray’s qualifications were not challenged. Read more

  • Mary Jo White, nominated to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, spoke at the same hearing. Her confirmation is expected to proceed smoothly.

UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS CLEAR COMMITTEE. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed two gun measures today but postponed a vote on an assault-weapons ban because sponsor Dianne Feinstein was absent, The New York Times reports. A bill that mandates background checks for private gun purchases passed on party lines. Another bill that renews a grant program for strengthening school-security programs and increases its funding passed 14-4. The assault-weapons ban is expected to come up for a committee vote on Thursday. Read more

VIRGINIA LT. GOV. WON’T RUN FOR GOVERNOR. Bill Bolling, Virginia’s Republican lieutenant governor, announced Tuesday that he will not run for governor this year, The Washington Post reports. Bolling decided not to run for the Republican nomination after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is more conservative, announced his candidacy, but he had left open the possibility of an independent bid, which would have upended the race. Read more

SPY CHIEF: OPEN HEARINGS ARE THREAT TO DIPLOMACY. The country’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, warned the Senate on Tuesday that ‘open’ hearings on sensitive matters have the potential to produce damage among America’s allies, The Hill reports. “Our attempts to avoid revealing classified information sometimes leads to misinterpretation or accusations that we’re being circumspect for improper reasons,” he said, suggesting that he’s learned “the hard way” that allies listen closely to the hearings. Clapper also warned that cyber attacks were the top threat to the U.S., The New York Times reports. Read more

WHY POLITICIANS SHOULD BEWARE OF THE ‘MEME.’ Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida can’t make a public appearance these days without at least one water-sip joke or someone mentioning his penchant for rap (or, let’s face it, both). But in this digital era of rapidly moving memes and ever-declining attention spans, such jokes run the danger of getting old, fast. National Journal’s Elahe Izadi offers a warning for would-be Gangnam-stylists and Harlem Shakers: There’s a saturation point online; anything viral will eventually putter along and die on its own, and anyone still trying to push such memes will look woefully out-of-touch. Read more

NO POPE ON FIRST GO-ROUND. The first papal conclave did not produce a winner, as the tell-tale black smoke issued from the Sistine Chapel indicated that cardinals will continue to deliberate over a new pope, Reuters reports. Read more

  • @Brendan_Buck: Are we going to get breaking news alert emails for every black smoke sighting?

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OBAMA TO MEET WITH HOUSE GOP. The president will return to the Hill Wednesday, this time to visit with House Republicans. Obama plans to visit the Hill for meetings with Senate Republicans and House Democrats on Thursday.

IT’S THE DEMS TURN ON BUDGET. Senate Democrats will be releasing their long-anticipated budget Wednesday, which reportedly includes $1 trillion in new taxes.


"Maybe he's just finding his stride now. It maybe hasn't been his style" -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Obama just now working to cultivate relationships with Senate Dems (CNN)


IS OBAMA THE LAST PRESIDENT WITH A SHOT AT MIDEAST PEACE? For years, many political leaders have edged toward a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. But, as Ben Birnbaum writes in the New Republic, Obama might be the last American president to have a shot at actually making it happen. “The number of settlers living in communities that would need to be evacuated has not passed the point of irreversibility,” Birnbaum writes. “Jerusalem is still dividable. Hamas is confined to its Gaza fortress,” and Palestine’s current leader is unique in his desire for a two-state accord. “By the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, however, every one of these circumstances could vanish—and if that happens, the two-state solution will vanish along with them.” Read more


DOES ‘OBAMACARE’ HAVE $1 TRILLION IN NEW MIDDLE-CLASS TAXES? The Washington Post’s Fact Checker takes a look at a recent exchange on a Sunday show between Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on whether the Affordable Care Act has $1 trillion in new taxes aimed at the middle class. The verdict? They’re both on shaky ground. Read more


WHAT DOES IT COST TO WIN A SEAT IN CONGRESS? For the Senate, it’s $10.5 million. For the House, it’s $1.7 million, according to, a nonprofit organization that compiled figures for all of last year’s races. The figures are the average amount for all the winners from 2012. The cheapest seat went to Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who won his race with roughly $3 million in campaign contributions. The most expensive went to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who raised roughly $42.5 million. As for the House, the cheapest seat went for a mere $110,570, to Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat who won a nonvoting seat representing American Samoa. Read more

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