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First Thoughts: Finger-pointing, posturing, and politics

Another week of finger-pointing, posturing, and politics?... Boehner to introduce his $3 trillion two-step plan at 2:00 pm ET ($1.2 trillion in cuts for a temporary debt-ceiling extension, following by a bipartisan committee to come up with $1.8 trillion in revenue and entitlement changes for another debt-ceiling increase)… Reid to counter with his $2.7 trillion one-step plan (it extends the debt ceiling through 2012, contains $2.7 trillion in cuts, and has no revenues increases or entitlement changes)… Bachmann vs. Pawlenty: The Ames Battle begins… The Tea Party and gay marriage… Summer of speculation: Christie heads to Iowa… And Wu-oah: A defiant David Wu won’t resign immediately.

*** Finger-pointing, posturing, and politics: We are now a little more than a week out until the Aug. 2 deadline, but all sides in the ongoing debt-ceiling fight are still pointing the finger at each other, posturing, and accusing the other side of playing politics. (That was supposed to be last week’s activity, but this week, too?) The White House is shaking its finger at Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans for wanting a short-term debt-ceiling fix. The outline of that House GOP plan, which Boehner plans to unveil around 2:00 pm ET -- $1.2 trillion in cuts for a six- to nine-month debt-ceiling extension, followed by a bipartisan committee to come up with $1.8 trillion in revenue and entitlement changes for another debt-ceiling increase. But the White House says that approach can’t pass the Senate. "So [Boehner] would be choosing to make a political statement," a White House source tells us, adding: "Remember, Boehner and Cantor argued for months against a short-term deal.”

*** Boehner’s $3 trillion two-step: Senate Republicans, meanwhile, say that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was working with Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell on that two-step fix (and yes, that's the spin war between the two parties now --"short term" is what Dems will use to describe this idea, and "two-step process" is what GOP will use to describe it). "The speaker, Sen. Reid, and Sen. McConnell all agreed on the general framework of a two-part plan,” a Republican source emails First Read. “A short-term increase (with cuts greater than the increase), combined with a committee to find long-term savings before the rest of the increase would be considered. Sen. Reid took the bipartisan plan to the White House and the president said no." But Senate Democrats argue that storyline is incorrect, NBC’s Libby Leist reports. "Republicans are wrong. It’s true that our staffs continued to talk yesterday, but we never backed off our opposition to a short-term increase, and they never stopped insisting on one. And that's why talks fell apart.”

*** Can Republicans go it alone in the House? The interesting gamble Boehner is making with his two-step plan is this: He's counting on passing this in the House with Republicans only. For months, however, the House GOP leadership has quietly argued they need Democratic votes to a get plan passed in the House. But the purpose of the conference call yesterday with the House Republican conference was Boehner trying to talk as many of the rank-and-file to sign on with his plan as possible. The House GOP leadership knows if they can't pass Boehner's plan WITHOUT Democratic votes, the lose a lot of leverage. How big is the unofficial Bachmann caucus inside the GOP conference? Remember, she's against any debt ceiling raise. And this plan will not have a balanced budget amendment attached to it. Don't assume Boehner has the 217 Republican votes for his plan. If he does, it gives his plan a better chance.

*** Reid’s $2.7 trillion one-step: As we noted yesterday, Reid is now preparing to move his own compromise legislation -- which extends the debt ceiling through 2012, contains $2.7 trillion in cuts, and has no revenues increases or entitlement changes. NBC’s Leist says that Reid may introduce this legislation as early as today. But House Republicans dismiss the Reid approach. “You ought to call it the unicorn and dragons plan,” a House GOP source tells us. Why? Because, as the Washington Post writes, part of that $2.7 trillion in savings is assuming the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “[P]eople familiar with the months-long search for a debt-reduction compromise said that hitting such a large target without raising taxes or cutting entitlement programs would probably require Reid to rely heavily on savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — a figure budget analysts said could easily amount to more than $1 trillion over the next decade.”

*** But remember: Republicans started this fight: All of this finger-pointing, posturing, and politics -- with the U.S.’s credit rating at stake -- have generated a considerable disgust at Washington, at both Democrats and Republicans. But it is important to note that Republicans started this fight by tying deficit reduction to the debt ceiling (when many of these same Republicans have voted for clean debt-ceiling hikes in the past). The president and his party have indicated their willingness to pay the ransom -- with some concessions -- but Republicans won’t accept it. The irony to all this is that Republicans have won the larger argument they started; they just haven't figured out how to declare victory. What seems to upset many Republicans is how the president (using the bully pulpit) got to the right of them on deficit reduction. Of course, now both parties have a lot on the line, the president doesn't want to look like he can't lead, even a broken Washington, and the Republicans want to prove they can govern. 

*** Bachmann vs. Pawlenty: The Ames Battle begins: It’s less than 20 days until the Ames Straw Poll, and things are beginning to heat up in the Hawkeye State. Over the weekend, Team Bachmann took a swipe at Pawlenty after he once again knocked her experience in an interview on FOX. This back-and-forth comes as both Bachmann and Pawlenty have been airing TV ads in the run-up to Ames. By the way, there will be nine names on the straw-poll ballot, the Des Moines Register reported over the weekend. The nine include the six who bought tent space for the straw poll (Bachmann, Cain, McCotter, Pawlenty, Paul, and Santorum), as well as three others (Gingrich, Huntsman, and Romney). Per the Des Moines Register, “[T]he Republican Party of Iowa’s state central committee decided today not to include two well-known candidates who are merely flirting with a bid: Rick Perry and Sarah Palin.”

*** The Tea Party and gay marriage: With the Tea Party now playing such an influential role within the Republican Party, gay marriage has become a fascinating issue. Why? Because the Tea Party’s libertarian streak and focus on the 10th Amendment conflicts with the GOP/evangelical opposition to gay marriage. After all, if you believe in states’ rights, then New York has as much right to pass legislation legalizing gay marriage as another state has the right to opt out of the federal health-care law. On Friday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made the classic libertarian/10th Amendment case on New York’s gay-marriage law. "That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business,” he said. But Rick Santorum fired off this Tweet: “So Gov Perry, if a state wanted to allow polygamy or if they chose to deny heterosexuals the right to marry, would that be OK too?” Well, a libertarian would say yes, or reply that the government has no business in things like marriage.

*** On the 2012 trail: Bachmann is in Iowa, holding a rally in Manchester and a town hall in Maquoketa… Gingrich… Gingrich campaigns in New Hampshire… Paul stumps in Iowa, hitting Ames and Cedar Rapids… And Pawlenty remains in Iowa, too, making stops in Davenport and Muscatine.

*** Summer of Speculation: Christie heads to Iowa: And guess who’s also in Iowa today: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who speaks at the Iowa Education Summit in Des Moines at 5:30 pm ET. Christie’s appearance in the Hawkeye State comes after dozens of big name GOP donors -- including Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone – tried to convince him to run last week. As Politico wrote, Christie repeated to the donors that he’s not running in 2012, citing his wife (“She’s not enthused”), his children (“Missing my kids growing up is a big deal to me”), and his concern about leaving halfway through his first term (“The people trusted me, and I feel like I owe that trust and faith some fidelity”).

*** Wu-oah: It’s very easy to see that this story is MUCH worse than the Anthony Weiner one, but so far it’s sticking closely to the Weiner script. The Oregonian: “Defiant and dug in, [Democratic] Rep. David Wu said late Sunday that he would not resign, declaring instead that he will complete his term and then retire from Congress in 2012. The surprising decision came one day after senior Democratic leaders urged the seven-term Democrat to resign quickly after reports that he was accused of an unwanted and aggressive sexual encounter with a young woman last November.” After  Wu said he wouldn’t resign, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for the Ethics Committee to look into the allegations. Wu’s Democratic primary opponent has already raised a considerable amount of money. One key different between Wu and Weiner, as one Democratic source tells us: Weiner, at the end of the day, was more rational to deal with…

*** Monday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on debt deliberations… Ex-Sen John Breaux (D-LA) joins AEI’s Norm Ornstein to discuss Ornstein’s assessment that this is the worst Congress ever… The Washington Post’s Dan Balz, Politico’s Jonathan Martin and the Center for American Progress’ Jennifer Palmieri break down the latest chapter in Pawlenty vs. Bachmann.

Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for GOP senators: 15 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 19 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for Dem senators: 22 days
Countdown to NV-2 and NY-9 special elections: 50 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 106 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 196 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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