Pressure Increases on Senate Dems for Debt Deal

Senate Can’t Wait for Superman

"I'm giving it a rest, because we're at an impasse. We have to accomplish certain things if we're going to get a deal, and we're just not where we can meet the demands of what I think we have to have to fix our problems."

-- Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., talking to FOX News colleague Trish Turner about the Gang of Six.

The halt to the high-stakes bipartisan debt talks by the Senate Gang of Six may be the key to moving forward on President Obama’s request to increase the government’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

With Sen. Tom Coburn leaving the table over an impasse surrounding Medicare, Senate Democrats can no longer hold out hope for a grand bipartisan bargain before Aug. 4, when a partial government shutdown would commence.

As long as the Gang was at work, Senate Democrats could be excused for stalling saying that they hoped for a big deal to solve the problem in the long term.

Now, President Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid and the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus must begin in earnest the unhappy work of putting together a small-bore deal to win the support of 60 Senators – including at least seven Republicans.

Middle East Speech Sags Under Expectations

"The Arab Spring represents a real and organic repudiation of the things bin Laden stood for in the region and among the people he claimed to represent."

-- A senior administration official talking to the Wall Street Journal about President Obama’s address on the Middle East.

The White House did its best on Tuesday to step up President Obama’s speech on Middle Eastern policy slated for Thursday at the State Department.

From the pressroom podium and in a series of leaks to news outlets, the administration let it be known that the president would:

-- Outline a new formula on foreign aid

-- Highlight America’s roles as a facilitator, not instigator of peace and reform

-- Express his disappointment with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad for killing his subjects.

-- Not make any grand pronouncements about the rapidly deteriorating situation between the Israelis and Palestinians.

-- Point out that he gave the order that led to the killing of Usama bin Laden

Given that Israeli-Palestinian relations are growing increasingly dire and that the so-called “Arab Spring” has taken on some very sinister overtones, the president finds himself in a difficult situation when it comes to articulating a new policy for the region.

Part of the problem is dissonance. How can Obama bomb Muammar al Qaddafi for killing rebels but not even call for Assad’s departure from power for doing the same? Why is it worse for Egyptian police to club protesters than it is for Bahrainis?

Obama’s primary task on Thursday will be to try to sort out the confusing set of policy standards in the region. The thrust seems to be a more artfully articulated version of the now infamous “leading from behind” line on Libya. It’s up to the region to sort itself out, but the U.S. will be around if you need us.

The impetus for the speech – the killing of bin Laden – was going to be cast in juxtaposition with the democratic yearnings of the revolutionaries of the region. For many of those revolutionaries, though, they seem to be interested in many of bin Laden’s goals (ending Israel, pushing America out of the region, bringing Islamist control to the Arab world, etc.), just obtained through different means.

The riots in Israel and the ascendancy of the Hamas hardliners make it harder to do a compare/contrast speech.

It may prove safer for the president to offer a muddle than a “major speech” on foreign policy.

Team Obama Tries to Cool Overheated Fundraising Goals

“It is far too early to be guessing quarterly fundraising numbers, but the president is focused on his official duties and doesn't have the luxury of spending much of his time fundraising like the full-time GOP candidates. In contrast, the Romney campaign has set a $50 million fundraising goal for the quarter and is holding 30-40 events in May and June…”

-- An Obama campaign aide talking to FOX News Colleague Mike Emanuel.

The biggest mistake the Obama reelection team has made so far is boasting that the president would break his own record of raising $750 million for a presidential campaign.

President Obama has been hitting the fundraising circuit hard since his formal reelection announcement last month. He has made campaign swings through the moneyed districts of Chicago, Manhattan, San Francisco and Hollywood. And he’s found ways to squeeze donors seemingly every time he leaves the White House. Last week, he talked border security in El Paso, Texas, but dropped by Austin to pick up checks.

Today, he’ll wish Cost Guard Academy graduates in Connecticut the best of luck and then head to Boston to grab some cash. And there have been multiple Washington fundraising events throughout.

In many ways, it’s just part of the gig for an incumbent seeking reelection. It may look unseemly for a guy to be simultaneously looking at troop deployments and nuzzling big donors, but then politics is a rotten business.

The problem for Obama, though, is that his team, in an effort to scare Republicans (and presumably any Democrats nursing grudges) out of challenging him, has set the bar too high.

Remember, the thing that drove Obama’s huge fundraising success in 2008 (other than his decision to back out of federal matching funds) was the high-drama primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. Without a primary challenger, Obama doesn’t need $1 billion. Aside from the care and feeding of a smallish campaign staff in Chicago, Obama won’t need to spend serious cash until this winter.

For Republicans, like Obama in 2007 and 2008, the needs are now. When Mitt Romney hauled in $10 million in one day at a Las Vegas phone-a-thon, it wasn’t for a rainy day fund. That money is needed on the ground in early primary states right now.

Republican donors, also, are more jazzed too. There is a race taking shape and donors know that if they don’t act soon their preferred candidate could be quickly out of the running. Democrats, meanwhile, laugh off the potential Republican challengers to Obama and hold back on the cash. Once Obama’s perilous position becomes clear, the Blue team will speed up the pace, but for now they can’t imagine anyone unseating the incumbent.

But the billion-dollar braggadocio of the Obama campaign means that Obama’s fundraising prowess will be measured against that of Romney and the rest of the GOPers. The effort now is to reel in that talk.

Obama is working like a dog to bring in the money, which is never an appealing activity for a president to be engaged in. But less appealing still would be the idea that all that time on the fundraising circuit was still leaving him short.

Rust Belt Votes Trump EPA Agenda

“Two years ago, the Obama administration took office vowing to protect public health and respect the law. “[The EPA’s decision] disserves both of these principles. By the EPA’s own calculations, the health protections it has elected to delay would save up to 6,500 lives each year.”

-- Statement from James Pew, a spokesman for Earthjustice, a group that sued the EPA twice over power plant emissions.

If president Obama wins a second term, there is going to be hell to pay from the EPA.

The agency started out as a major force in the Obama administration. When the president announced his plan for a federal system of tradeable global-warming fees, the EPA was the key to the plan. The message to carbon-state Democrats in Congress: Either take the so-called “cap and trade” plan and spare some of your economy or the president would allow the agency to crush carbon emitters across the heartland. The presence of former agency boss Carol Browner added to the EPA’s luster with her role as global-warming czar.

But after nearly two-and-a-half years, the agency has fallen into disrepair. Rather than yielding on cap and trade, carbon-state Democrats banded together with Republicans in a proposal to strip the EPA of the power to regulate the gasses Obama believes are causing the earth to warm. No cap and trade, no EPA crackdown.

The agency, though, found a new way to get the same result by ratcheting up regulations on established pollutants like mercury to new levels that would have had the same effect by eliminating coal as a fuel source for many power plants.

But after the electric industry pointed out that the new regulations would mean brownouts and economic disruption as older power plants went offline, lawmakers started to push the EPA on the carbon crackdown by other means.

With Obama looking to revive his standing in states like Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, the agency this week quietly 86ed the plan, but as is the case in the original carbon crackdown, left open the possibility of returning to the subject later. Like, say, January 2013.

Can Rick Perry Really Resist?

“Not that I am aware of.”

-- Mark Miner, communications director for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, when asked by FOX News whether Perry had made calls assessing his potential strength among Iowa caucus goers.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be better situated for a presidential run than anyone in the country. He is the nation’s longest-serving governor, he leads the largest Republican state, Texas has an unrivaled record of economic success, Tea Partiers love him, he carries a pistol while jogging to dispatch coyotes and similar varmints, his hair is like a cross between Mitt Romney’s and John Edwards’.

And yet, Perry has rejected the calls for him to make a run. But that doesn’t mean he will be forever.

Real Clear Politics found the subtle ways in which Perry, or at least Perry’s supporters, are keeping the door open to a potential presidential run. The article caused some ripples in GOP circles for two reasons: Perry’s potential as a candidate and the fact that Perry, a former Democrat with an ornery streak, would not be easy for the political establishment to corral.

Perry has long had a difficult relationship with the man he succeeded in Austin, George W. Bush. Those grudges still persist as was evident by Karl Rove’s help to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in her effort to unseat Perry in last year’s gubernatorial primary.

One Republican source well connected in the Perry world confirmed to Power Play the gist of the RCP story: While Perry may have tabled talk of a run, his advisers and confidantes are looking for ways to make it happen.

The early field has mostly taken shape, but if we get to August and no candidate has been able to harness the anti-Romney sentiment in the Republican electorate, count Perry (and Sarah Palin) as potential late entrants to the field.

Santorum Disses McCain on Torture

“He doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that’s how we ended up with bin Laden. That seems to be clear from all the information I read. Maybe McCain has better information than I do, but from what I’ve seen, it seems pretty clear that but for these cooperative witnesses who were cooperative as a result of enhanced interrogations, we would not have gotten bin Laden.”

-- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum when asked by radio host Hugh Hewitt about the assertion by Sen. John McCain, who spent more than five years being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison camp, those harsh interrogation techniques didn’t lead to the killing of Usama bin Laden.

No one in the Republican presidential field was in better position to take advantage of the simultaneous bowing out of Mike Huckabee and implosion of Newt Gingrich than former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

A strong performance in the first presidential debate of the year, assiduous groundwork with grassroots conservatives in Iowa and New Hampshire and a long record as a staunch social conservative started to create a little momentum for Santorum.

But he showed his Achilles heel on Tuesday when he opined that John McCain, he of the Hanoi Hilton just didn’t understand about harsh interrogations.

While Republican primary voters have always had reservations about McCain’s mavericky ways, they have always admired his military service and endurance as a POW. Santorum has long struggled with his tendency to say too much, too harshly. Pugnacity is a positive unless it leads you to such blatant gaffes.

Such is life for a presidential candidate trying to break into the first tier. The things you say trying to get more attention for your fledgling effort can end up clipping your wings. The question now is whether Santorum can resist the urge to keep the flames burning and just quietly apologize or if he will seek to keep the controversy going.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“This is not a time when you want to go out on a limb with experiments, and that's why I think ultimately, even though at the beginning, there will be the fringe candidates [who are] interesting and attractive and the one liners will get a lot of attention.

But in the end the Republicans want to end this presidency and change the direction of the country. They aren't looking for, you know, a champion on the Reagan level. Anybody who can win.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on the direction of the Republican presidential field.