"Congress can pay its bills or it can fail to act and put the nation into default."
-- Statement from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney ruling out the minting of a $1 trillion platinum coin to finance more borrowing without having Congress approve an increase in the federal borrowing limit.
Vice President Biden is meeting today with a group of liberal House members who are among the strongest proponents of gun control in Congress.
Sitting down with Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., et. al. is not likely to inspire new calm or confidence among pro-gun rights groups. Had Biden used the day before he released his recommendations for addressing mass shootings to meet with Rep. John Dingell or Sen. Bob Casey or other moderate, NRA-backed Democrats there might have been some glimmers of hope for a deal.
But Biden is pretty evidently not looking for a deal. He’s looking to force the issue and, probably, to force Republicans some how, some way to vote against legislation aimed at preventing school shootings. The aim seems to be to do whatever is possible through executive fiat and then make a political example of Republicans.
And so it across the board with Team Obama these days.
Over the weekend, the administration announced that it would not be using any legerdemain to avoid the looming fight over the federal borrowing limit. No trillion-dollar coins. No invocation of the 14th Amendment.
The demand is for Congress to lift the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling without condition. President Obama’s demand is that the limit rise without any cuts to offset or changes to entitlement programs.
Meanwhile, Obama is simultaneously pushing two controversial nominees for key administration posts.
Former Sen. Chuck Hagel is starting his goodwill tour of the Senate today in his bid to be the next secretary of Defense. Hagel’s views on Israel, military cuts and the appropriate uses of military force will make his confirmation process contentious at best.
Down Pennsylvania Avenue, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew is getting ready for what could be an even rougher process. Lew has long been on bad terms with the fiscal hawks in Congress and running his nomination concurrent to the battles over the debt limit, automatic spending cuts and the expiry of the resolution funding the government in the absence of a budget will surely get ugly.
Lew has made it clear that he supports additional tax increases beyond the hikes in the “fiscal cliff” deal. That alone riles Republicans who want to move ahead to taxes. Treasury nominees are traditionally not so identifiably partisan as Lew, but generally fit the mold of current Secretary Tim Geithner and his predecessor Hank Paulson as money men.
To top it off, the White House told the New York Times that the president plans to push a broad package on illegal immigration – including amnesty for many of those here illegally – starting next month at his State of the Union address.
Gun control, Defense cuts, two controversial nominees, more borrowing without offsets and amnesty for illegals: that’s a menu designed to give Republicans indigestion.
In 2009, Obama overloaded the circuits of a Democratic Congress with lots of big plans. While Congress was still getting over the massive stimulus spending package, Obama came back with fees for carbon emissions and his new health-insurance entitlement program.
Obama ended up getting what he wanted on insurance, but it was a heckuva battle, even with majorities in both houses of Congress. The global warming fees and other initiatives mostly went by the wayside.
This time Obama is actually hoping to overload Congress. The plan seems to be to have Republicans running from fight to fight that they cannot find a central point on which to unite and oppose him.
The president’s vision is of a Republican fire brigade running from blaze to blaze, but never able to focus on putting one of them out.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.