Obama in the batters box

Mar 12, 2013 by

President Barack Obama’s unusual tour of Capitol Hill this week could answer a central question dogging his renewed effort to strike a grand bargain on deficit reduction:

How serious is he?

Starting Tuesday, Obama will shuttle between basement House meeting rooms and ornate Senate parlors, giving Republicans and Democrats a rare opportunity over three days to press him directly on how far he’s willing to go on taxes and entitlements to complete a comprehensive deal — a major piece of unfinished business from his first term.

The shuttle diplomacy is a new tactic for the president, who kept his distance from Congress for most of his presidency. He seems to believe that if he looks Republicans in the eye and explains his plan,they will think he sincerely wants a big deal to contain the deficit and honestly wants to tackle the big problems, despite the large policy gulf between them.



Obama allies say that the president might be able to convert a few Republicans if he listens to their concerns, and gives them consideration. But the differences between the two parties aren’t surface-level issues that can be smoothed over by coddling. They are deep and defining principles. If Obama fails to hit the right notes, his overtures may only exacerbate GOP concerns.


This week’s meetings could begin easing the tense Obama-GOP relationship, fractured by years of failed entreaties, miscommunication, scorched-earth campaign tactics and deep ideological differences.


But the expectations for both a sustainable civil alliance and a grand bargain remain low for one very simple reason: The parties are further apart on taxes and entitlements than they were in 2011 when Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) first entered into talks and came close to striking the ever-elusive grand bargain.


Take tax reform — something both sides want. Obama says an overhaul of the Tax Code should include new revenue to help pay down the national debt and offset spending cuts. But Republicans, still sour over agreeing to $600 billion in tax rate hikes as part of the fiscal cliff deal, are more adamant than ever that tax reform not raise a dime of new revenue.

Congressional Democratic leaders are firmly opposed to entitlement changes such as raising the Medicare eligibility age and restructuring Social Security — both just a starting point for Republicans in a negotiation. Obama is somewhere in the middle, willing to go further than his party on entitlements if he gets enough in return from Republicans on taxes. How far, however, is unclear.

via Is President Obama serious about a grand bargain? – POLITICO.com.

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