President Barack Obama is embracing Rep. Paul Ryan’s much-criticized 2014 budget deal — but is preparing to slash the GOP in January once unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans end on Dec. 28.
The inevitable fights over unemployment benefits could help muffle media coverage of the Obamacare disaster, and give Democrats another opportunity to hit the GOP during the long run-up to the 2014 election.
“What we have reached is a compromise agreement [for the 2014 budget],” deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday at the daily press conference.
Ryan’s plan for the 2014 budget has been sharply criticized by many small-government groups, including Heritage Action and the Tea Party Express.
But Earnest’s tone was conciliatory, even complimentary, towards Ryan.
That’s a sharp contrast from October, when Obama and his aides slammed the GOP as hostage takers, terrorists, anarchists, arsonists and economic wreckers. (RELATED: Obama offers to fairly negotiate with nuclear-armed GOP terrorists)
Senate Democrats and House Republicans did not strike a so-called “Grand Bargain,” Earnest said on Wednesday, but “were able to do is find common ground and strike an agreement that is in the best interests of our economy.”
“Mr. Ryan did not get everything he wanted,” said Earnest.
But Earnest also called for another extension of benefits for long-term unemployed Americans.
“There is no reason they shouldn’t be able to get it done this year… I know there is strong Democratic support,” Earnest said.
Earnest suggested the president wanted in the benefit added to the budget deal, but declined to say how hard Obama pushed for its inclusion. “The president and his team are engaged because this is a priority,” he claimed.
Democrats may also choose to stage a fight in January over their proposal to increase the minimum wage. Obama has touted the proposal several times, but so far hasn’t put any significant pressure on the GOP.
Democrats can also create a major fight in January by staging a breakdown in the ongoing negotiation over the nation’s budget ceiling, which stands at over $17 trillion.
Without raising the ceiling again, Obama can’t borrow funds to maintain the current level of deficit spending.
Ryan is helping lead the GOP side in that budget-ceiling talks, which are slated for completion in January.
Obama and other Democrats gained greatly from the October budget battle, during which they shut down the government rather than accept GOP reforms to Obamacare. Aided by their allies in the media, Democrats won a major polling advantage over the GOP during the fight.
That advantage was quickly wiped out during the subsequent disastrous Obamacare rollout. Obama’s approval fell down to 40 percent by early December..
But the White House’s support for the Ryan 2014 deal may be also designed to improve Ryan’s standing in the House, said a congressional staffer.
Business and progressive groups are working with Ryan to pressure House legislators to pass a version of the Senate immigration bill, which is Obama’s top second-term priority. (RELATED: It’s robots versus immigrants in Paul Ryan’s dairy district)
The Senate bill would triple legal immigration over the next decade to 30 million, and push the annual inflow of guest-workers above 2 million. That inflow would be enough to replace every American between 20 and 30 who has a job.
House Speaker John Boehner says he wants to pass some immigration bills, but has remained vague about the details. If Ryan’s 2014 plan is deemed a success, it may help him sway reluctant GOP legislators to back the massive immigration rewrite, said the staffer.
Progressives, including Obama, support the immigration rewrite because they believe it will give them them the political and demographic power to transform the country’s small-government culture.
“Together with the Affordable Care Act… [an immigration rewrite] when we look back 50 years from now, I think we will all just be extremely proud,” said Obama’s top aide, Valerie Jarrett, said in August. “It will be a landmark piece of legislation.”
Earnest, however, played up Ryan’s 2014 budget deal.
“The president is pleased that we’ve been able to find some common ground as it relates to this interim budget agreement that sets… some parameters for what the budget will look like in fiscal year 2014 and in fiscal year 2015, and therefore provides some stability and certainty for the private sector,” he said.