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President Barack Obama is sending a pointed message to Republicans by nominating Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary: I’m not backing down from this budget fight.
This is certainly a blow to any hope that Republicans might have had that Obama would flinch from his pledge not to negotiate over the debt ceiling. The president has said he will demand a clean bill raising the debt ceiling, unattached to any conditions or spending cuts.
To call Lew’s relationship with Capitol Hill Republicans strained would be an understatement. According to some on the Hill, there just is no relationship anymore.
“We do not even bother talking to him,” a staffer for a Republican senator said. (Read More: In Picking Lew, Obama Turns a Page at Treasury)
When Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell called Vice President Joe Biden as the deadline to cut a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff loomed, it was a sign of the tensions between the senator and Lew. McConnell had to create a new channel for negotiations because he could no longer go through the White House.
Several Republicans said Tuesday they don’t view Lew as a man interested in hearing GOP concerns. One aide called him “tone deaf” in understanding the compromises that Republicans could accept during high-stakes talks.
“No matter what you’re proposing or no matter what compromise you’re trying to forge, he comes at it from a position of, ‘Whatever you want, I have to be against,'” the GOP aide said. “It doesn’t advantage him in the negotiation, he doesn’t get a different policy outcome than he would otherwise. It just irritates people. … It’s as much personality as anything else.”
These tensions are not new. Lew alienated Republican lawmakers during the summer of 2011 when he was director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. According to Rich Miniter’s book Leading from Behind, House Speaker John Boehner complained during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations that he simply could not negotiate with Lew. (Read More: No More Mr. Nice Guy: New Battles Ahead for Obama)
When he was OMB director, Jack Lew talked about the mechanics of budget cuts with CNBC.
“Whatever Boehner proposed, Lew would spurn in favor of his own, usually more complicated ideas. And Lew returned again and again to proposals Boehner had unambiguously refused. Lew had lost the trust of the House Republicans,” Miniter writes.
Noam Scheiber’s The Escape Artists tells the story of a meeting between Lew and Sen. Jon Kyl and fellow Republican Rep. Eric Cantor in the summer of 2011 to negotiate a deal to lift the debt ceiling. At one point Kyl and Cantor are clearly flustered at the stony resistance they are getting from Lew and Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council.
“Let me get this right,” Kyl says to Lew and Sperling. “You are saying there are Medicare savings you think would be good policy. But you won’t do them unless we agree to raise taxes?”
CNBC’s Steve Liesman takes a look at what incoming Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will be left with once Timothy Geithner leaves. Also, Roger Altman, Evercore Partners chairman & founder, weighs in on the financial skills Lew brings to the cabinet position.
The answer from Sperling and Lew was “yes.” The negotiations quickly broke down.
There’s no doubt that Lew is highly experienced and has shown a high level of loyalty to Obama. As a long time public servant, he knows the ins and outs of the budget better than most people. But even if Lew is respected in Washington, he’s not a guy who is likely to be able to diminish the political acrimony.
If Obama wanted to appoint a man who could personify his no negotiation pledge, there would be no better pick than Lew. Story Continued:
· Charlie Rangel hits Obama on diversity – Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called it “embarrassing as hell” that President Barack Obama is facing charges that his White House lacks diversity.
“It’s embarrassing as hell. We’ve been through all of this with [2012 GOP presidential nominee] Mitt Romney. And we were very hard with Mitt Romney with the women binder and a variety of things,” Rangel said on MSNBC. “And I kind of think there’s no excuse with the second term.”
The Obama administration has been criticized recently for not having enough diversity with its Cabinet appointees after The New York Times ran a photo of Obama meeting with senior advisers in the Oval Office, the vast majority of them white men. The White House responded by releasing its own photo, which showed a much more diverse crowd of Obama’s top advisers.
“The president values diversity, believes it’s important, because it enhances the quality of the pool of potential nominees for positions across the administration,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said at briefing Tuesday. “He believes that by looking broadly for candidates for offices that [it] ups the chances he’ll find the very best person for the job.”
Rangel said Obama could be suffering from the “Harvard problem.”
“If it’s the first term, you could see people got to know who is around that’s qualified in order to get this job, No. 1. I had thought, and maybe it’s so, that it could be the Harvard problem where people just know each other, trust each other and women and minorities don’t get a chance to rub elbows and their reputations and experience is not known,” Rangel said. Story Continued:
In remarks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai at the White House this afternoon, President Barack Obama said the U.S. has fallen “short of the ideal” in Afghanistan:
“So, you know, I think that, have we achieved everything that some might have imagined us achieving in the best of scenarios? Probably not. You know, there’s a human enterprise, and you know, you fall short of the ideal,” said Obama.
The president went on to say that America has achieved some measure of success in Afghanistan, however. “Did we achieve our central goal? And have we been able, I think, to shape a strong relationship with a responsible Afghan government that is willing to cooperate with us to make sure that it is not a launching pad for future attacks against the United States? We have achieved that goal. We are in the process of achieving that goal. And for that, I think we have to thank our extraordinary military, intelligence and diplomatic teams, as well as the cooperation of the Afghan government and the Afghan people.” Story Continued and to watch video:
· Obama Signs Bill Giving Him Armed Protection For Life – While simultaneously launching effort to disarm the American people
Despite launching a gun control agenda that threatens to disarm the American people, President Obama has signed a bill that would afford him armed Secret Service protection for life.
“The legislation, crafted by Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, rolls back a mid-1990s law that imposed a 10-year limit on Secret Service protection for former presidents. Bush would have been the first former commander in chief affected,” reports Yahoo News.
The new bill, which will cost American taxpayers millions of dollars, is a re-instatement of a 1965 law which will see presidents protected for life as well as their children up to age 16.
The irony of Obama seeking to surround himself with armed men for the rest of his life while simultaneously working to disarm the American people via a gun control agenda that is likely to be enforced via executive decree represents the height of hypocrisy.
But it’s not the first time that Obama has lauded the notion of responsible Americans using firearms to protect himself and his family while concurrently eviscerating that very same right for the American people.
During an ABC Nightline interview broadcast on December 26 yet recorded before the Sandy Hook shooting, Obama said one of the benefits of his re-election was the ability “to have men with guns around at all times,” in order to protect his daughters.
In addition, the school attended by Obama’s daughters in Washington D.C. has no less than 11 armed security guards on duty at all times, yet the idea of arming teachers and school officials to prevent school massacres has been dismissed by gun control advocates who want school campuses to remain “gun free zones” where victims are disarmed and shooters are free to carry out their rampage unimpeded.
The hypocrisy of gun control advocates who feverishly work to create victim disarmament yet surround themselves with armed men is rampant amongst the political class.
As we reported last month, despite in the same year calling for “Mr. and Mrs. America” to “turn in” their guns California Senator Dianne Feinstein, author of a draconian bill set to be introduced later this month that would treat gun owners like sex offenders, admitted to carrying a concealed weapon for her own protection after she was threatened by a terrorist group.
Other prominent gun control advocates such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg have also aggressively pushed to disarm Americans while themselves employing armed bodyguards at all times.
Michael Moore, another vehement proponent for gun control, also has armed bodyguards, one of whom was arrested for carrying an unlicensed weapon at New York’s JFK airport back in 2005.
A White House petition created at the end of last month calls for making the White House and all federal buildings gun free zones. “If the government believes gun free zones are a solution for citizens, the same standard should apply to government servants and employees,” states the petition, which currently has over 12,000 signatures. Story Continued:
As a state senator in Illinois, President Obama opposed legislation providing an exception to handgun restrictions if the weapon was used in the defense of one’s home.
Obama’s vote would have maintained the status quo, which made it a violation of municipal gun ban law to use a firearm to save your own life in your own home. But the bill was passed anyway without his support.
The vote is a sign of how committed Obama may be to strict gun control measures.
The Illinois vote is hardly ancient history, having occurred in 2004 as Obama was running for election to the U.S. Senate. In opposing the measure, Obama lined up well to the left of the mainstream, as the Illinois Senate included 32 Democrats to 26 Republicans but approved the bill by an overwhelming margin and subsequently overrode a veto by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Obama did not participate in the veto override, which occurred in November 2004, likely after Obama had resigned his state Senate seat in order to prepare for his new role in the U.S. Senate.
The Illinois legislation was passed after a man who shot a burglar in his home was fined $750 by his town for disobeying its handgun ban. The absurdity and injustice of the situation doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression on Obama.
Just eight years earlier, in 1996, Obama answered “Yes” to a survey question asking whether he would support state legislation to “ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns.” The Obama 2008 presidential campaign claimed the form had been filled out by an aide who mischaracterized Obama’s position, even though Obama’s handwriting was found on survey. Story Continued:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other top Democrats are putting new pressure on the White House to circumvent Congress to boost the nation’s debt ceiling if no bipartisan agreement can be reached.
In a strongly worded letter to President Barack Obama obtained by POLITICO, Reid and his leadership team argue that failing to raise the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling would threaten the full faith and credit of the United States. Reid and Sens. Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray asserted that Obama “must make clear that you will never allow our nation’s economy and reputation to be held hostage.”
“In the event that Republicans make good on their threat by failing to act, or by moving unilaterally to pass a debt limit extension only as part of an unbalanced or unreasonable legislation, we believe you must be willing to take any lawful steps to ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global economic crisis — without congressional approval, if necessary,” the Friday letter to Obama says.
The letter amounts to the most concerted push yet by Senate Democratic leaders for the White House to take unprecedented action to raise the debt ceiling given the bitter stalemate in Congress. After the messy debt ceiling fight from 2011, and the protracted fiscal cliff battle that extended until New Year’s Day, Obama has said he will not use the debt ceiling increase as a bargaining chip and will refuse to negotiate with GOP leaders on the issue.
But Republicans have demanded that dollar-for-dollar spending cuts must accompany any increase in the debt ceiling. And after agreeing to raise marginal income tax rates on high earners as part of the fiscal cliff deal, Republicans refuse to consider any new revenue as part of a debt-ceiling accord. Democrats say taxes must be part of any deal.
In addition, many conservative Republicans are not convinced that failure to lift the debt ceiling — which will be reached as early as next month — would constitute immediate default by the U.S. government. These Republicans believe that the U.S. government can continue to make interest payments to debt holders without defaulting.
“The fact that we continue hitting the debt ceiling is a symptom of Washington’s spending problem, and hitting the debt ceiling does not immediately trigger a default,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee, in a statement on Thursday. “The Treasury Secretary has an obligation to preserve the credit rating of the United States and should pledge to continue making necessary interest payments to avoid default.”
Following the prolonged 2011 debt fight, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded U.S. debt, and analysts warn more downgrades could be possible, which could have dire consequences for the American and global economies.
Hill Democrats, for their part, are worried that they lack the leverage in the debt ceiling battle and stand to lose big in any deal cut between the White House and congressional Republicans. Story Continued: