Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Obama Getting Tougher With Congress

After two months filled with deference to Congress, President Obama is finally playing a little hardball with the Republicans and right-leaning Democrats who are threatening to attenuate his ambitious budget proposals. He's both calling out his critics and raising the option of using a legislative shortcut that would eliminate the threat of a Senate filibuster.

Helene Cooper and Carl Hulse write in the New York Times: "During an appearance on Tuesday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Mr. Obama took a swipe at Republican critics of his $3.6 trillion budget and its agenda for health care, energy, taxes and economic recovery.

"'If there are members of Congress who object to specific policies and proposals in this budget, then I ask them to be ready and willing to propose constructive, alternative solutions,' Mr. Obama said. '"Just say no" is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs. It is not an acceptable response to whatever economic policy is proposed by the other party.'

"The strong words were the latest in a push that has come to resemble elements of the two-year-long presidential campaign. Mr. Obama may hold his second prime-time news conference as president, perhaps as early as next week, to talk up the budget."

Walter Alarkon writes in The Hill that Obama's change in rhetorical strategy is his response to "substantial pushback from lawmakers in both parties who sharply attacked key elements in his $3.55 trillion proposal."

And Julie Pace writes this morning for the Associated Press: "In a new Web video, President Barack Obama is asking Americans to help him pass his $3.6 trillion budget."

But Obama's big shot across Congress's bow is this:

Steven Thomma writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "A top White House official threatened Tuesday to use a congressional rule to force some controversial proposals through the Senate by eliminating the Republicans' power to block legislation.

"Peter Orszag, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the Obama administration would prefer not to use the budget 'reconciliation' process that allows measures to pass the Senate on simple majority votes.

"Orszag said he wouldn't rule it out, however. The legislative tactic is being considered to push through Obama's global warming and health care programs, and perhaps his proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy....

"Under normal Senate rules, it requires 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to shut off debate and force a final vote. Democrats currently have 58 Senate votes. Under reconciliation, 51 votes can force anything through.

"There is plenty of historical precedent of using it by both parties, including Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who used it force through big tax cuts.

"'Pretty much every major piece of budget legislation going back to April 1981, April '82, April 1990, April 1993, the 1990 act, the 2001 tax legislation, they were all done through reconciliation. Yet somehow this is being presented as an unusual thing,' Orszag said.

"'The historical norm as opposed to the exception is for a major piece of budget legislation to move through reconciliation.'"

Lori Montgomery writes in The Washington Post about the response: "Republicans are howling about the proposal to expand health coverage and tax greenhouse gas emissions without their input, warning that it could irrevocably damage relations with the new president....

"Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has argued against reconciliation as well....

"'There are many more problems with using reconciliation than is commonly appreciated,' Conrad said yesterday, after he and House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.) met with Obama at the White House. The topic of reconciliation came up 'in passing,' Conrad said, but no decisions were made.

"One big problem, Conrad said, is that reconciliation was conceived as a way to force hard budget choices, such as tax increases or spending cuts, not as a means to advance substantive legislation."

Steven T. Dennis and Emily Pierce write in Roll Call on the opposition from Obama's own party: "A bloc of Senate Democratic moderates is quietly maneuvering to keep open the option of vetoing two of President Barack Obama's most ambitious agenda items this year — climate change and health care reform.

"Eight Democrats who want to water down new climate change legislation have already joined with Republicans and signed a letter opposing any attempt to use fast-track budget rules to prevent filibusters. Many of the same Democrats also oppose using those budget rules to prevent filibusters of health care legislation....

"Democratic moderates have been couching their opposition to reconciliation with terms like 'bipartisanship' and 'regular order,' but when pressed, some Senators acknowledged they want to ensure their voices are heard during upcoming debates on global warming and health care.

"Senators from energy-producing states like West Virginia and Louisiana are worried new carbon taxes could be slammed down their throats. And fiscal conservatives are concerned they could be left out of the room while liberal Democrats push for a series of tax hikes proposed by Obama....

"But other Democrats said they were concerned that Republicans will filibuster anything Obama pushes on energy and climate change, and the recent run of near-total Republican opposition to Democratic priorities doesn't give them cause for hope. They argue that reconciliation — and the simple majority it requires — would ensure Democrats can forward their top agenda items.

"'I think we should protect it,' Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said in support of using reconciliation. 'Because of this contrary attitude that exists [among Republicans], where whatever we want to do, right or wrong, they just oppose the Democrats,' he added."

Despite the tougher tack with Congress, it's worth nothing that Obama is still not taking anything like Bush's "imperial presidency" approach to dealing with the legislative branch. For instance, he's actually asking Congress to write major legislation itself.

And how's that going? Robert Pear writes in the New York Times: "Three powerful House committee chairmen have agreed to work together on legislation to overhaul the health care system, starting with the view that most employers should help finance coverage and that the government should offer a public health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurance.

"The unified approach contrasts with the competition and rivalry among committee chairmen that helped sink President Bill Clinton's plan for universal health insurance 15 years ago....

"In a letter to President Obama, the chairmen said, 'Our intention is to bring similar legislation before our committees.'"

By Dan Froomkin  |  March 18, 2009; 10:32 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Cartoon Watch
Next: Quick Takes

Comments

"'There are many more problems with using reconciliation than is commonly appreciated,' Conrad said yesterday"

The same can (and should) be said about making filibusters standard operating procedure as Republicans have done since they earned their minority status in 2006, but I suspect Mr. Conrad doesn't feel too strongly about that aspect of modern politics.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 18, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that this reconciliation process is fair given both the stubborn opposition of the Republicans and the fact that it is a leagally available strategy. If it's not wanted, then the rule should be changed or ended.

On a similar note, I think that the filibuster rule should go back to its roots, when a senator actually had to stand there and talk to keep it going. Changing that rule was a lazy way out and made it far too easy for a filibuster to occur. How many would actually happen if they had to actually work at it? Far fewer, I'm sure.

Posted by: allenofwoodhaven | March 18, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"One big problem, Conrad said, is that reconciliation was conceived as a way to force hard budget choices, such as tax increases or spending cuts, not as a means to advance substantive legislation."

Earth to Conrad. This is a budget proposal making hard choices that do-nothings like yourself have failed to make for years. How about giving up some of those Ag subsidies?

Posted by: troyd2009 | March 18, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Ramming the porkulus bill through without vetting worked out well. The AIG bonus issue, Caterpillar is laying off 2500 people. So stop rushing and start providing some analysis and plan to get the Country back on its feet. Rushing a 3.6 trillion budget through with cap-and-trade, health care and another 750 billion "set aside" for another ill thought out stimulus.

Call your represenatives and tell them to vote no on this ill-conceived budget.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | March 18, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Remember this budget also contains a big bonus to Congress for the fine job that they have done. We need to have hearings and call them to the carpet as they have done to the citizens they represent.

Posted by: Ethicist | March 18, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I see two issues here:

Obama may use a "legislative shortcut that would eliminate the threat of a Senate filibuster". Isn't Obama now in the Executive branch of government? so why is he about to use a "legislative shortcut"? Isn't this an issue of separation of powers?

I am also a little put off that Obama says that "No" is not good enough. Isn't "no" pretty much what the Democrats told Bush for just about eight years? So why is it suddenly so wrong to "just say No"?

What goes around, comes around.

Posted by: heathergreeneyes | March 18, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Congress needs to stand tough against the Bloated one, who is trying to sell our future. Obama does not have my support for his stupid money throwing scheme. It will do him no good to take it to the people. The majority od Americans are against it. The majority of the people where against the AIG bailout. Nice mess Congress created with that one. So why does he continue to go against the will of the people? Oh, right, a community organizer knws better..

Posted by: dragonfly777 | March 18, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Bipartisanship is great in theory, but how can you work with those who agree with Grover Norquist that "Bipartisanship is another word for date rape?" The Republicans are running a scortched earth campaign, they will obstruct Obama's every attempt to repair the damage done to our economy because, as Rush has said, their overiding interest is ensure that Obama fails, no matter what the consequences are for America.

Posted by: War4Sale | March 18, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I am also a little put off that Obama says that "No" is not good enough. Isn't "no" pretty much what the Democrats told Bush for just about eight years? So why is it suddenly so wrong to "just say No"?

What goes around, comes around.


Posted by: heathergreeneyes

There it is...We need to tell President Obama NO until he sees it is good enough.

Posted by: TXSFRED | March 18, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Will Obama do anything more than "just say no" to conservative alternative proposals? I suspect not...

Posted by: rwsscott | March 18, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"One big problem, Conrad said, is that reconciliation was conceived as a way to force hard budget choices, such as tax increases or spending cuts, not as a means to advance substantive legislation."

Earth to Conrad. This is a budget proposal making hard choices that do-nothings like yourself have failed to make for years. How about giving up some of those Ag subsidies?


-QFT

I also agree they should change the filibuster rules back to the way they were so it is used for important bills and not just a method to change the definition of majority from 51 to 60. Not that Democrats should mind because if things keep up they'll have 63-64 seats come 2010.

Repubs need to come up with a comprehensive bill and then the Senate can debate it down to compromise. That's how gov't should work. No bullying from either side!

Posted by: theobserver4 | March 18, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

BigTunaTim said:

"'There are many more problems with using reconciliation than is commonly appreciated,' Conrad said yesterday"

The same can (and should) be said about making filibusters standard operating procedure as Republicans have done since they earned their minority status in 2006, but I suspect Mr. Conrad doesn't feel too strongly about that aspect of modern politics.
*******

I suspect you are not aware that Mr. Conrad is not a Republican.

Posted by: dummypants | March 18, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

BigTunaTim Democrats used the same tatic when they are in the minority. Please check your history.

troyd2009, The health care part of the budget does not fall under reconciliation. As it is a major change in exsisting health care laws.

Bubbette1, Good statement. All the rushing is making maters worse not better.

Posted by: mburton325 | March 18, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that this reconciliation process is fair given both the stubborn opposition of the Republicans and the fact that it is a leagally available strategy. If it's not wanted, then the rule should be changed or ended.

*********

if you define "fair" that way, then the AIG bonuses are also fair. along with any untold number of things that constitute bad company.

fair or not, obama went above and beyond that and promised something that he has not been able to deliver. worse, he has made only the lamest, most perfunctory attempts at bipartisanship. indeed, some could say he has made no real attempts of bipartisanship on substantive policy issues--and what else are republicans in the legislative branch elected to effect?

worse still, obama has made plently of cheap symbolic gestures (inviting a couple republicans to a super bowl party, giving capitol hill republicans meaningless face time that was not accompanied by a real willingness to exchange ideas or find common ground).

fair or not, the first two months have shown obama to be the down-the-line liberal he promised us he wasnt, and that john mccain promised us he was.

Posted by: dummypants | March 18, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Since the wild and careless disbursement of funds without any restrictions as to how the recipients spent it, to AIG and anyone Obama wanted to send money to worked so poorly, I think now would be a time to rethink the careless disbursement of the taxpayers money. He is supposed to be a guardian of America not a careless spendthrift of my money. Let's sit back and think this through. What is the rush? Haste makes waste, and to date, he has wasted millions of dollars in his freewheeling spending. AIG bonuses, Northern Trust vacations; when does he stop to lead this country rather than just spend money?

Posted by: Incredulous52 | March 18, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

These stinking Republicans are useless. They're getting paid to fix this country's major problems and all they're doing is trying to make Obama fail. They know our health care system is shot. They know we have to keep borrowing to buy oil. Sooner or later we're going to have to spend the money to fix these things. Or is it better that we rack up another ten years of debt before we fix them? This isn't about the budget, it's about is profits. They'll bleed this country dry before they sacrifice those profits.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | March 18, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

The Senate is undemocratic to begin with. 30 million Californians have the same number of Senators as 500,000 Wyoming ... whatever it is. Put the filibuster on top of that, and the Senate almost ceases to be an institution of democracy at all.

Even if they use it responsibly, the undemocratic power of small state Senators is a very dubious thing. When they start to abuse it, well, it starts to look un-American. You have to wonder whether the Senate itself is even a good idea. The Senate representing each State as equal to every other State was a compromise that was politically necessary at the time. But so was the idea of counting slaves as 3/5 of a person. That's over. Obviously, we're not going to do away with the Senate. But some Senators are making that idea look more attractive. Maybe it's time for this filibuster thing to pass along into history along with some of the other anti-democracy, anti-equality customs of days past.

Posted by: pressF1 | March 18, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Always funny to see the GOP hypocrisy machine at work.
The GOP has had an opportunity to work with the President, but instead has decided to be against everything.
Also funny that the GOPers say the Dems were against everything with Pres Bush, yet reality was different. The Dems too often just went along with Bush. And that's always been their problem - - backbone.
They could've threatened Filibuster on everything, just as the GOP is doing. And when they did threaten a Filibuster, the GOP cried & whined, & threatened *the Nuclear Option.*
It is entertaining, though, reading GOP comments here. These people actually believe what their puppetmasters tell them, even though reality says something contrary.
I hope Pres Obama does fast-track his initiatives. It's about time the hypocritical GOP cult, get a taste of their own Meds.

Posted by: burf | March 18, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Fromkin is a bumpkin.
Obama is actually seizing control of the Republican representation using illegal and unwise governmental procedures. He is rubber stamping pelosi/reid and thwarting out elected Republican representatives from executing their electoral votes.
Obama is a COMMUNIST! Get your chubby heads out of your buttocks Fromkin . . .

Posted by: lclifton | March 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I also agree they should change the filibuster rules back to the way they were so it is used for important bills and not just a method to change the definition of majority from 51 to 60. Not that Democrats should mind because if things keep up they'll have 63-64 seats come 2010.

Posted by: theobserver4 | March 18, 2009 1:52 PM
================================
Dream on buddy. The media can continue to try to cover for democrats but the truth leaks out and intelligent people pick up on it.

For example on the AIG bonus issue Dodd PURPOSELY GAVE THE COMPANIES AN OUT. Snowe and (can't remember the democrats name) added an amendment to prevent bonuses from being paid as agreement to the stimulus.

Democrats in their final negotiation stripped out that provision and Dodd put one in that exempted previous bonus contracts. The media can claim ignorance that "Dodd wasn't targeting anyone specific" but many know if republicans did this SAME thing it would be labeled as "republicans gave the big wig fat cats a parting bonus."

Maybe Dodd got another VIP loan for his efforts.

Posted by: Cryos | March 18, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Some of you still miss your dear fuhrer; Adolf W Bush. Don't ya?

SICKOS!!!!

Posted by: BOBSTERII | March 18, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company