Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were invited last week to the White House to meet with President Obama to discuss raising the nation's debt limit and address its long-term budget deficit. But, as the nation's capital segues into the dog days of summer, the debate continues to envelop Washington politics.
President Obama joined the House Republican Conference last Wednesday in a session that included talk of job creation, the federal budget deficit and the ever-looming debt ceiling limit. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) emerged from the meeting with the first Republican timetable for addressing the issue.
"I just think we're now in June, this really needs to be done over the next month if we're serious about no brinksmanship, no rattling investors," Boehner remarked. "But I will reiterate something I've said many times before: The biggest risk we face as a country is doing nothing."
The meeting also included a sharp exchange between the President and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) regarding each party's characterization of the other's proposal. Ryan said he believes the President has mischaracterized his proposed alterations to Medicare, and the President countered, saying he believed the GOP had done the same regarding the administration's health care reform legislation.
The House Democratic Caucus visited the White House the following day. True to partisan form, the Caucus vowed to support the administration's lead on the preservation of Medicare and efforts related to budget deficit reduction. Most political observers agreed that this was precisely the prescription the administration needed, especially since it fell on the same day ratings giant Moody's Investor Services threatened to downgrade America's credit rating.
Democrats See Dim Light at End of 2012 Tunnel
Conventional wisdom holds that the Democrats could not conceivably rebound from the historic 63-seat loss last November to emerge as the majority party just two years later. To be sure, the prospects of House Democrats actually becoming the majority party in 2012 are remote. But recent developments are giving Democrats a glimmer of hope.
The party is gaining substantial traction among the general public regarding its hard-line stance to preserve Medicare. House Republicans, including Ryan, have pushed hard for substantial changes to the very popular senior program. Their zeal has met much resistance from both current and future beneficiaries. In fact, a recent CNN poll showed that six out of 10 registered voters opposed the House Republican plan.
Also, last week's special election victory by Democrat Kathy Hochul in a decidedly GOP-leaning district in upper New York has given many on the left optimism that 2012 will, at the very least, be better that 2010. In that race, GOP plans to overhaul Medicare played a key role.
Meanwhile, Republicans say they're in fine shape as they gear up for the 2012 contests, particularly this far out. Most Republicans consider New York's election results an aberration, and they tout the fact that sheer numbers are their best ally and the Democrats' biggest obstacle. House Democrats would have to pick up a net 24 seats in order to retake majority party status.
"Do I think they can make inroads? They can make some inroads, but I don't see them winning 24 seats," remarked former Virginia Representative and National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Davis. "Barring a real screw-up, I just don't see it happening."