Thursday, January 27, 2011

State of the Union, Barack Obama must turn words into action

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union

address Tuesday contained the usual laundry list of initiatives big and small — including many that require bipartisan cooperation for success.

But a POLITICO look at his wish list shows that, at best, he’ll probably be able to check off only a few of his agenda items, and Republicans are only part of the problem.

He put Democrats on the spot with an earmark ban, irked them by renewing his call for a freeze on discretionary spending and challenged them to limit medical malpractice lawsuits.

But heading toward his 2012 reelection, these are fights Obama seems willing — even eager — to have. He might not get everything he wants or even very much of it. But if Republicans balk, Democrats, led by the president, can call them out on it. If Democrats resist, Obama can create distance between himself and his less popular colleagues on the Hill.

POLITICO rates the odds of success for 10 key proposals. Items scoring zero have the least chance of happening. Those scoring 5 have the easiest track.

Five-year freeze on domestic spending

Idea: Obama proposed the cap as a “down payment toward reducing the deficit.”

Pro: The president claims the move would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, giving him a punchy talking point to show he is serious.

Con: It’s barely a dent. The deficit for this fiscal year alone is $1.5 trillion, congressional scorekeepers say.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Barack Obama's energy message failed

If President Barack Obama is going to sell Congress and the American public on energy legislation, he should forget the words “climate change,” Sen. Richard Lugar said Monday.

Lugar is preparing his own energy measure this year, and while he offered the Clean Economy Summit few specifics, the Indiana Republican said he will keep “social inertia” and marketing in mind – something he said Obama failed to do.

Obama’s energy message was eclipsed by cap-and-trade in the public mind, said Lugar. “The Obama administration’s focus on carbon reductions caused almost any energy security proposal to be viewed through the prism of climate change,” he said.

“The theological adherence to climate orthodoxy among some and absolutist denial by others left little room for serious debate on energy questions,” Lugar added.

Using feedback from the “practical energy plan” he introduced last summer aimed at reducing dependence on foreign oil, Lugar is passing his new energy bill around to newly-elected senators.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

President Obama to get a little more personal

President Barack Obama is once again the big draw at this year’s House Democratic Caucus retreat, but instead of giving a big motivational speech to the crowd, he’s planning to get a little more personal this time around.

On Friday evening in Cambridge, Md., according to aides, the president will show up to work the room, glad-handing with Democrats individually and in small groups at the Hyatt Regency, signaling a more hands-on approach to House Democrats who are still getting used to life in the minority.

Obama’s move to give more personalized attention to Democrats is also a reflection of the new political realities. After moving Obama’s ambitious agenda for the past two years, many liberals feel stung now that the president has started to work more closely with Republicans.

Obama’s appearance before House Democrats is slated to be closed to the media. House Democrats also will hear from Vice President Joe Biden, in the only portion of the three-day retreat that is open to the media.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Battles on budget and healthcare loom for Obama

After a good end to a not-so-good year, President Barack Obama faces even tougher challenges in the months ahead as looming fights over spending and healthcare set the stage for a difficult 2012 re-election campaign.

When a new Congress convenes on Wednesday, Obama will be confronted for the first time by a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a strengthened Republican minority in the Senate.

Whether he strikes deals with those newly powerful foes and continues the momentum built in December's "lame-duck" Congress or becomes mired in another bout of legislative gridlock could be a critical factor in Obama's prospects for a second term.

"The political climate is about to completely change for Obama, and how those budget and healthcare battles play out will really determine his status for the race in 2012," said Steven Schier, a political analyst at Carleton College in Minnesota.

A burst of accomplishment in Congress during the final days of December produced a tax deal with Republicans, repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military and ratification of a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia.