Last Act in the Budget Wars?

Outcome could be immense

David Hawkings, Roll Call


April in Washington is supposed to be all about immigration and gun control, with potentially climactic moments on course for both. But those expectations will prove illusory in the first days after the House and Senate return from recess next week, when headlines will come from a couple of high-profile maneuvers in the budget wars.

The maneuvers will be largely meaningless, despite the headlines, but the consequences for the outcome could be immense, one way or the other.

First, President Barack Obama will deliver the details of his spending and revenue requests to the Capitol on April 10 — nine weeks after his fiscal 2014 budget was due and two weeks after the House Republicans and Senate Democrats got out in front of him with their own, largely irreconcilable documents.

Then, that night, the president is supposed to have dinner with a dozen GOP senators who have a perceived willingness to think outside the box of the party’s fiscal orthodoxy.

While combating gun violence and modernizing immigration law are his high-profile drives for the spring, Obama still holds out hope for an additional $1.5 trillion in long-term deficit reduction. Locking that down would assure his legacy as an economic steward and promoter of job growth.

Hosting such a meal on the day of his budget submission will, of course, be portrayed as the president trying one final time to jump-start talks for an elusive “grand bargain.” That may be true to a point, and dinner organizer Johnny Isakson of Georgia may be able to find 11 accomplishment-driven and politically safe Republicans to create an enchanted evening.

But it’s much more likely the dinner will produce no more agreement than on the virtues of candid talk over a nice supper.

Why? Both the White House and Isakson are downplaying expectations that the dinner will do any more than kindle good feelings about future gatherings. The guest list is supposed to be totally different from the roster for Obama’s first “charm offensive” dinner a month ago, which featured most of the usual centrist suspects.

And GOP leaders will by then probably have dismissed the Obama budget books as barely worth the hackneyed “dead on arrival” response from Congress.

(for more, please visit our friends at Roll Call)

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