GOP Eyes Mini-Deal on Debt

For Conservatives, Good Things Come in Small Packages

“SEN. JOHN CORNYN: I think we need to take the cuts that are already on the table from the Biden conversations, which I understand are about one-and-a-half trillion dollars in savings

BRIAN KILMEADE: How long would the extension be in your mind?

CORNYN: I think it could be six months…”

-- Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on the “Kilmeade and Friends” radio show Wednesday

President Obama and Senate Democrats are looking to box in House Republicans with a debt-ceiling plan that would give the president his long-sought, $2.4 trillion borrowing-power increase in return for cuts to be determined later.

The White House is now expressing support for a brief extension, an approach that the president had previously deplored, if it is coupled with an agreement on a larger debt increase.

This would be a scenario, in with a debt patch, that would be applied ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline set by the administration while the details of a deal in principle are worked out.

But the current experience on details suggests such an outcome could be very risky. The bipartisan plan on debt reduction now supported by 30 members of the Senate took off like a rocket and is now losing altitude. The problem is that there are too many unanswered questions about things like the source of future cuts and the shape of future tax brackets.

The outcome Obama is seeking looks like an emergency increase to serve the crafting of the bipartisan deal or, more likely, the implementation of a Reid-McConnell plan that would pave the way for the full $2.4 trillion in three tranches with the bipartisan framework serving as the starting point for the panel that would be created to recommend legislation on the issue.

That scenario would provide a political boost to the president and allow the toughest questions to be resolved out of the harsh glare of the debt-ceiling debate. That would be the biggest win for Obama.

House Republicans, however, are feeling hard-pressed to resist since they know Obama can ratchet up their political pain by threatening to cut off Social Security benefits and other federal spending if the House blocks a plan. If the House gets a plan just hours ahead of the deadline, a panic could work in the president’s favor.

In an effort to regain the upper hand, conservatives are now looking for a way to have an emergency measure of their own in place, just as they successfully did in the debate over spending for the current fiscal year.

The House-passed “cut, cap and balance” plan was once thought to be that proposal, but the late emergence of the Gang of Six means that moderate senators are unlikely to take such painful measures if the compromise plan is available.

But conservatives could add to their bargaining position by having a plan on offer, and passed in the House, that would give a six-month extension to borrowing.

Such a plan could be easily fused with the McConnell proposal that calls for incremental review anyway and wouldn’t require Republicans to sign off on all $2.4 trillion in new borrowing in the name of cuts to be detailed later.

If there is an impasse and the hour is getting late, the panic advantage could shift to the House as the president and Democratic senators face the real possibility of the fiscal abyss.

Record Setting Presidential Campaigner Expresses Disdain for Campaigning

“You know, I'm not thinking about elections. I'm thinking about all the families that I hear back from in Ohio and across the country who are, you know, struggling, maybe a spouse has lost a job, they used to have two paychecks, now they got one, trying to make ends meet.”

-- President Obama in an interview with Columbus, Ohio CBS affiliate WBNS

Why is President Obama so doggone determined to publicly pretend that he is not thinking about his reelection?

In his interview with an Ohio TV station, Obama uttered the breathtaking line “I’m not thinking about elections.” That’s so obviously false that even people who don’t follow politics closely know it isn’t true, so why say it?

Obama is shattering previous presidential records on fundraising, both in volume and frequency. The president is offering up members of his White House staff as human tote bags in his current pledge drive. Obama hosted Wall Street grandees at a White House gathering for donors arranged by the Democratic National Committee. He used what appears to be the Map Room in the official portion of the White House to record a campaign video. Obama’s presidential travel hews almost perfectly to the list of swing states.

If anything, Obama seems more obsessed with reelection politics than his predecessor and almost as much as Bill Clinton in 1996. And yet, Obama consistently professes public disdain for the process. His team even takes pride in operating the campaign officially out of Chicago, as if a campaign was an unclean thing unworthy of being near the White House.

But, after setting that standard with his rhetoric and symbolic moves, the president vitiates his credibility on the subject by campaigning so often and using the White House as a fundraising tool.

Obama would do better to level with voters on this subject. They would appreciate the honesty, and it might help convince an increasingly skeptical public that Obama is actively interested their support.

Obama Approves of Economic Trajectory, Voters Don’t

“What people want to know is that we're moving in the right direction even if they're frustrated with how fast we're moving, we need to speed it up but I think the trajectory's a good one.”

-- President Obama in an interview with Columbus, Ohio CBS affiliate WBNS

The latest FOX News poll says that 49 percent of registered voters believe the Obama administration has made the economy worse, compared to just 34 percent who believe it has been helpful.

That’s some dire stuff, right there.

While completing a round of local television interviews, the president went back to his default position on the saggy economy, taking about a good trajectory and “moving in the right direction.”

But as the June housing numbers show, the economy is getting steadily worse and hitting voters where they live, literally. Sales fell for a third straight month and are on track to have this year’s sales totals to be the lowest in decades. That hurts the economy, keeps people from relocating and drives up unemployment. The consistently high unemployment, meanwhile, hurts home sales. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Economists and realtors say that the problem isn’t just the cyclical weakening phenomenon but also the raft of new bank regulations passed one year ago today. Banks, facing a raft of new rules about consumer lending have pulled way back on credit – a growing number of contracts are being cancelled before purchases are completed, reflecting the new skittishness.

The president and his team argued that the new regulations would add protections and predictability to credit markets. Yes, but not likely in the way they intended. Credit is now predictably hard to get.

For a time the administration was moving away from the old “bumps in the road” response to the crumbling economy and used language that reflected “a crisis.” It looked like a smart move given the success the president’s potential 2012 opponents were having in beating him up for being out of touch and indifferent to deepening economic suffering.

Either the boss didn’t get the memo or this is another change in direction, but with an increasing number of voters agreeing with the Republican mantra of “he made it worse,” it seems like a politically unwise posture.

Hey, Nobody’s Perfect

“I have always said we should be able to disagree without being disagreeable -- that we shouldn’t be questioning each other’s motives.”

-- President Obama in a Wednesday interview with Los Angeles’ KABC

“I think that what we’ve seen in negotiations here in Washington is a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on cable news…”

-- President Obama in a June 29 press conference questioning Republican’s motives in the debt debate

Umbrage Olympics Over West Note

“Mr. West's response was completely out of order and an offensive personal attack with a clearly sexist tone.”

-- Letter from female House Democrats demanding Republican leaders “disavow” Rep. Allen West’s email to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in which he said she was “no lady”

Power Play offers this guidance to lawmakers who wish to express their indignation and umbrage: Unless you’re ready to ask for pistols at dawn, cut it out.

Republicans and Democrats do it constantly: Rising to take deep offense to this remark or that statement.

We’ve had a great example in the current kerfuffle over the feud between two members of the House from adjacent Florida districts.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, rose on the floor to express her umbrage that Rep. Allen West, a Tea Party Freshman, would support reductions in benefits to senior citizens.

Schultz’s umbrage was the generic Washington kind – empty expressions of disappointment and surprise about an action that neither surprised nor disappointed. West, though, took it to heart and expressed a hot dose of umbrage in an email to Schultz that called her, among other things, “vile.” West distributed the email to others in the House to make sure his umbrage was on the record.

Then, the DNC and Schultz’s sister legislators rose to express their umbrage (and raise some campaign cash) over the incident. West has countered with umbrage at their umbrage. The cycle has at least two days left as the process works its way to an eventual quasi apology from someone, somewhere.

Power Play wishes to express its umbrage at all of the time wasted in Washington on unnecessary expressions of umbrage.

West is set to be on “America Live w/Megyn Kelly” at 2 pm Eastern today -- his first interview since the immediate hours after his umbrage off with Schultz began. It would be a prime opportunity for him to break the cycle.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“The Republicans have not done what they should have done months ago, which is to find one plan they could all agree on and present it to the president and to the American people.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report w/Bret Baier

***Today on Power Play Live: Chris and Democratic strategist Debbie Dingell argued their points surrounding the latest debt ceiling developments. Plus Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs explained why he thinks the Obama administration is targeting Americans with "propaganda." Watch it here!

Don’t miss a minute. 11:30 ET weekdays at***