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Congress: Unity or division?

Obama went to Capitol Hill yesterday to meet with Senate Democrats, and he got this headline from the AP: "Democrats unify around Obama budget." But: "Even so, both the House and Senate versions lack specifics for any of the administration's signature proposals. And Democrats decided to cut spending -- and exploding deficits -- below levels envisioned in the plan Obama presented less than a month ago."

The New York Times: "Just before midnight, the House Budget Committee voted, 24 to 15 along party lines, to approve its spending plan, sending it to the full House for consideration next week. While both the House and Senate plans protect the president's top priorities, neither would extend a middle-class tax cut championed by Mr. Obama beyond 2010 unless a source of revenue to pay for it is identified. And though Mr. Obama laid out specific plans to raise $634 billion over 10 years for a down payment on national health care reform, lawmakers provided only a framework for the White House and Congress to move forward, provided that the health initiative does not raise the debt." 

The Wall Street Journal looks at more budget differences between the Obama administration and Democratic Congress. "Democratic leaders in both chambers are pushing packages that call for narrower deficits and less spending than proposed by the White House… Significantly, both the House and Senate decided to abandon a White House request for additional money for the Wall Street rescue. The two chambers also don't intend to invoke special legislative powers -- known as 'reconciliation' -- that would allow climate-change legislation to avoid a filibuster in the Senate."

"Still up in the air is whether legislation designed to expand access to health care, another major Obama administration priority, will receive those filibuster-proof protections. The House budget does provide such protection, and sets a Sept. 29 deadline for committees to act on a bill. The Senate budget, however, is silent on the issue." 

The Times' Zeleny makes this point: The divisions between the Obama White House and the Democratic Congress "are no greater than those that existed within the Republican Party when it was in power, and at this point they do not threaten Mr. Obama's ability to win the main elements of what he is seeking in his budget. But they bring to life a paradox of political success: As a party expands its ideological and geographic reach, as the Democrats have in the last two elections, it becomes harder to hold together, forcing its leaders to spend time papering over internal differences even as they confront a smaller but more unified opposition." 

The Hill profiles the interesting transformation of Judd Gregg "from cabinet to chief fiscal critic."