President Obama breaks bread with house and Senate Republicans
By Roger Caldwell
In politics there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Everyone has an agenda and in order to get some of what they want they must communicate and talk. Filibusters and fighting has been the order of the day in Washington and it appears that the President is making a shift. Americans have a short memory and we are comfortable operating from one manufactured crisis to another, every two months.
In December 2012, every media outlet was talking about the fiscal cliff and the economy was getting ready to go into a tailspin, and we would have another recession. Our federal lawmakers tend to drag their feet, and both the parties place the blame on each other. But three hours before the midnight deadline on January 1, the Senate was able to reach a deal. The House of Representatives approved the deal 21 hours later.
This was a major achievement and win for the President because he was able to get the Republicans to vote for tax increases. This was a bipartisan agreement, and one of the key elements of the deal was an increase in the payroll tax by two percentage points. Individuals making more than $400,000 and couples making over $450,000 would find that their top tax rate would increase from35 percent to 39.5 percent. Investment income would also be increased, and households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would also pay higher taxes.
This deal would supposedly avert the fiscal cliff, but it would create another crisis on March 1 with spending cuts, which is called the sequester. Lawmakers had over a year to put together a plan to agree on spending cuts, but now there is another crisis with the debt ceiling and the federal government could find itself shut down because of a lack of funding from the budget. It appears that the crises keep coming every other month, and no one has a solution.
Many Republicans and most of the conservative media believe that President Obama has not reached across the aisle to his opponents, and tried to listen to their opinions and ideas. To many of the Republicans the president was always trying to force a deal by using pressure tactics with public speaking to get them to compromise and negotiate.
Something has happened in the Obama administration, and the president has made a180 degree shift and he is schmoozing Republicans. This new courtship started with taking 12 Republicans to dinner and then inviting House Budget Committee Chairmen Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland to lunch at the White House.
Finally some of the Republicans think the President is ready to come to the table and try to understand their positions. Many of the Republicans that emerged from dinner thought it was a good meeting that was productive.
“We were working together and talking together about the real essence of our problem and how we can get this thing turned from this never ending short-term-fix, and this fiscal cliff stuff into a long term solution to our fiscal problem. I was pleased that it was that substantive,” said Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana. It is obvious that the president is making headway with his new strategy.
There is no telling where the president will end up, but no one will get anywhere with massive gridlock. This week the president will have separate meeting with the two parties, and the more lawmakers that are engaged in the conversations, the greater opportunity for a bipartisan solution.
There are no easy answers to the fiscal challenges that the president and the two parties find themselves in. But common sense in a spirit of respect can move solution based ideas forward, where admiration is fostered and courtesy is practiced.