Discuss as:

First Thoughts: Going big

The path the Obama White House will push for at today’s 11:00 am ET debt-talk meeting: going big ($4 trillion in deficit reduction)… Does going big mean Social Security is on the table?... White House pushes back, saying it’s open to “reasonable changes” to Social Security and Medicare that strengthen those entitlement programs… The GOP message on revenues is now all over the place… Snowe teams up with DeMint in WSJ op-ed… GOP expressing fundraising concerns for the presidential contest?... Bachmann’s on the air in Iowa… And DGA raises approximately $11 million in the first half of the year, which is half of the RGA’s haul.

*** Going big: At today’s 11:00 am ET bipartisan debt-talk meeting, President Obama will lay out three different paths to raise the debt ceiling, according to Democratic officials. One is the short-term increase ($1 trillion in cuts for a six- to nine-month ceiling hike) that Obama has already ruled out, saying it only kicks the can down the road. Two is a medium-sized deal that gets everyone past the 2012 elections (with about $2.5 trillion over 10 years of deficit reduction). And three is going big (with about $4 trillion in deficit reduction). The path that the White House seems to favor right now: going big. But there’s a realistic scenario where you combine paths two and three -- a medium-sized deal now with agreement on "triggers" or enforcement mechanisms to curb debt-GDP with the 2012 election essentially deciding on whether it's spending or taxes or both.

*** Is Social Security on the table? But as the Washington Post reports this morning, going big MIGHT mean putting reductions in Social Security and Medicare on the table -- along with Republicans putting significant revenue increases on the table. “Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal.” The New York Times adds, “The president’s renewed efforts follow what knowledgeable officials said was an overture from Mr. Boehner, who met secretly with Mr. Obama last weekend, to consider as much as $1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — programs that had been off the table.”

*** The White House pushes back: But a top White House official pushes back that it won’t be making a “grand offer” on Social Security. The official explains that the president has always been open to “reasonable changes” to the entitlement programs as a way to strengthen them. Indeed, as Obama said in his fiscal-policy speech back in April, “[B]oth parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we have to do it without putting at risk current retirees, or the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.” Do Republicans want Social Security as part of the deal? Yes, the White House official responds. Is the White House taking it off the table? No, but it wouldn’t consider changes that are unbalanced and include slashing benefits.

*** The GOP revenue message is now all over the place: Strikingly, Republicans -- who are known for always being on message -- now seem to be all over the place on the issue of revenue. Over the past few weeks, the standard GOP response has been that any tax hike, any revenue increase is off the table. But Sen. Jon Kyl, the party’s No. 2 in Senate leadership, said yesterday that Republicans have offered up between $150 to $200 billion in increased revenues. "If the government sells something and gets revenue from it, that's revenue,” Kyl said. “If there is a user fee of some kind and we want to raise that to keep up with the times, that's revenue.” In addition, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has admitted he’s open to closing tax loopholes, but as long as there are offsetting tax cuts (which then wouldn’t reduce the deficit). It appears Republicans have been caught off guard by the White House's decision NOT to take the small deal, or even simply to push for the medium-sized plan now (2.5T). The last thing they want is for the president to look like the bigger deficit hawk -- which may explain why suddenly the once solid congressional Republican messaging wall on taxes is now showing some cracks.

*** The participants: Today’s 11:00 am ET bipartisan meeting takes place at the White House in the Cabinet Room. And there are eight participants besides Obama and Vice President Biden: House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Cantor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Whip Kyl.

*** Snowe teams up with DeMint: Speaking of the debt talks, guess who has co-written a Wall Street Journal op-ed with GOP Sen, Jim DeMint on the need for a balanced budget amendment? None other than Olympia Snowe. It’s something that probably helps her against any 2012 primary challenge – and it’s help that Dick Lugar and Orrin Hatch haven’t gotten from DeMint. “If Congress increases our national debt ceiling next month without permanent, structural budget reforms, we will signal to taxpayers and bond markets alike that Washington is still in denial,” the two GOP senators write. “Whatever agreement is reached, everyone will know that future Congresses are not obligated to follow it. As a result, the only way to compel lawmakers to maintain their responsibility forever is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.” But again, the substance of this op-ed is much less significant than the fact that Snowe -- worried about a Tea Party challenge -- got DeMint to do this.  

*** GOP money concerns? Turning to 2012, it’s a rather quiet day in the race for the Republican presidential nomination (Romney's still in London, folks). Perhaps the biggest story is the GOP worry -- after Romney’s underwhelming $18-million haul -- that it won’t be able to compete with Obama’s money machine. Writes Politico: “The Republican presidential fundraising reports are still coming in, but a clear winner has already emerged: Barack Obama. Whoever claims the GOP nomination is going to find it close to impossible to keep pace with the president’s fundraising juggernaut.” More from the story: “‘There’s not any doubt that Obama is going to raise more money than anybody has ever raised running for president,’ said Henry Barbour, RNC committeeman for Mississippi and the governor’s nephew. ‘Is that sobering? Sure it is. It’s a wake-up call.’” Others in the piece make the case that candidate fundraising is less important in the post-Citizens United world. Perhaps this is true. But ask John Kerry whether ACT's resources -- ACT was the Crossroads of 2004 -- would have been better used by the campaign itself. When you can't coordinate, it's much more difficult.

*** Bachmann’s on the air in Iowa: Also today, Michele Bachmann is up with her first TV ad in Iowa, and it’s mostly a bio spot. “As a descendant of generations of Iowans, I was born and raised in Waterloo, Bachmann says to the camera, per NBC’s Sarah Blackwill. “As a mom of five, a foster parent and a former tax lawyer -- and now a small business job creator -- I know that we can't keep spending money that we don't have. That's why I fought against the wasteful bailout, against the stimulus. I will not vote to increase the debt ceiling.” The campaign says it’s a “substantial” buy.

*** On the 2012 trail: All the activity is once again in Iowa… Pawlenty holds a town hall in Urbandale… And Santorum hits Sheffield, Fort Dodge, and Sioux City.

*** DGA raises approximately $11 million (half of the RGA’s haul): On Tuesday, the Republican Governors Association reported raising $22.1 million in the first half of this year -- more than it raised in all of 2007 (the last comparable gubernatorial election cycle). Now the Democratic Governors Association has released its figures for the first half of this year: approximately $11 million, which is more than double what it raised during this same point in ’07. But the RGA responds, “The RGA’s consistent and significant fundraising lead over the DGA is often overlooked, but it speaks volumes about the leadership Republican governors are providing our party.” 

*** Programming note: MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” which airs beginning at 1:00 pm ET, has an all-star lineup today. To discuss the budget talks: Schumer, Ryan, Van Hollen, and White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. Also: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (to discuss the new flood threat following the AZ and NM wildfires) and Sean O’Keefe (on the space shuttle).

Countdown to CA-36 special run-off: 5 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall primaries for GOP senators: 5 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general/primaries for Dem senators: 12 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for GOP senators: 33 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 37 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for Dem senators: 40 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 68 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 124 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 214 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @aliweinberg