Obama suggests he may host budget crisis talks

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama suggested Monday that he will get involved publicly in the Democrat vs. Republican budget impasse, marking a possible change from his apparent hands-off, no-compromise policy in the 2014 budget debate.

“I suspect that I will be speaking to [congressional] leaders today, tomorrow and the next day,” he told reporters during a brief White House appearance with Israel’s prime minister.

But he combined his promise of talks with his normal dismissal of the GOP’s call for a one-year delay to the unpopular federal takeover of the nation’s health-care networks. “What [a deal] simply requires is for everyone to act responsibly,” he told reporters.

“You can expect he will have conversations with leaders on the Hill,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. However, Carney declined to say if he planned to contact GOP leaders prior to the government shutdown.

“I have nothing new to report on the president’s schedule,” he said, without answering a question about whether Obama has covertly talked with Hill leaders today.

The disagreement over the budget and Obamacare could cause a government shutdown on midnight, if the 2013 budget year ends without Congress approving government funding for the next couple months.

Obama’s hard-nosed stance is highlighted by his daily schedule for Monday, which shows that he attended a 10:15 a.m. national security briefing and an 11:15 meeting and lunch with Israel’s prime minister, ahead of a 4:45 p.m. TV-ready appearance in the Cabinet room with his agency secretaries.

Obama’s empty calendar illustrates his reluctance to demand any compromise from his Democratic allies in the Senate, who adamantly oppose any Obamacare deal with the elected Republic majority in the House of Representatives.

That fundamentalist aversion to any deal is exemplified by Sen. Harry Reid, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate.

He kept the Senate out of session on Sunday, Sept. 29, effectively delaying any consideration of the GOP’s Sept. 28 bill that fully funded the government, while delaying for one year implementation of Obama’s most prized legislative accomplishment, Obamacare. The vast majority of Republicans considered that bill a compromise, since most want to scrap Obamacare altogether and re-establish a free-market health-care system.

Reid then delayed his vote against the House bill until Monday afternoon, only several hours before the budget deadline at midnight.

The GOP may be able to pass another compromise bill before the midnight deadline.

Obama did consider holding a last-minute negotiating session with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders, but scrapped the idea after Reid declared his opposition to any talks, according to a Monday report. “Reid believed that it would amount to nothing more than a photo-op that would give the false impression that a serious negotiation was occurring, even warning he wouldn’t attend such a session,” according to Politico.

Carney reiterated the president’s claim that a shutdown is being caused by the GOP, not by opposition to a compromise from Obama and his Democratic allies that control the Senate.

“The leader of the House Republicans must decide whether roughly 60 members of his caucus — the tea party faction — will dictate to the American people that the government will shut down,” Carney said.

“What he will not do is go along with the idea the government should be shut down over this desire to unwind history and achieve through threat and extortion what Republicans could do through legislative precess or through the election process.”

Carney also hinted that any budget compromise might disadvantage Democrats in the pending talks over an increase to the nation’s debt limit. If Obama agrees to a compromise, he asked, “What comes next? What will they demand next?”

However, Carney also denounced any possible political trades with the GOP during the debt-ceiling talks. “Nothing is negotiable when it comes to the debt ceiling,” he said.

Democrats are gambling that swing voters will blame the GOP for the government shutdown, and help Democrats win a House majority in November 2014.

A CNN poll released Monday said that 46 percent of respondents would blame the GOP for the shutdown, while 36 percent would blame Obama, and 13 percent — including many of the swing voters — would blame both.

That poll showed a modest shift away from Obama and the Democrats since a prior poll announced Sept. 11. That earlier poll showed that 51 percent of Americans — not voters or likely voters — would blame the GOP, and 33 percent would blame Obama. Twelve percent said both would be to blame.

“The number who would hold congressional Republicans responsible has gone down by 5 points since early September, and the number who would blame Obama is up 3 points in that same time,” according to CNN’s polling director, Keating Holland.

Neither CNN poll asked the voters if Reid and the Democrats in the Senate and House should bear some of responsibility for the impasse.

A poll released Sept. 25 by CBS and The New York Times showed that 44 percent of Americans would blame the GOP, 35 percent would blame Obama and the Democrats in Congress, while 16 percent would blame both factions.

The polls may shift toward the GOP as it tries to highlight the parties’ disagreements over the unpopular Obamacare network.

CNN’s Sept. 30 poll showed that only 38 percent of respondents favor the Obamacare takeover, while 57 percent oppose the law, which is pressuring companies to shed workers and slow hiring.

The Sept. 11 CNN poll also showed that only 42 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s health-care policies, down from a high of 50 percent in January.

Follow Neil on Twitter