Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

In Politics of the Debt, Nobody Is Winning

Asked about political fallout from the intense negotiations, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel blamed the Democrats for offering “no plan” to take on the nation’s challenge. He also insisted his boss did not “walk away” from the discussions. “The president asked for tax hikes that were unacceptable because they would destroy jobs,” Steel said. “The president walked away from the potential of a bipartisan plan.”

Boehner has said the president is just interested in winning a second term, given that Obama said his “only bottom line” is extending the debt ceiling “through the next election, into 2013.”

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer took to the White House blog to smack back, noting that the GOP just a few weeks ago opposed a short-term increase.

Sources told Roll Call that the message the president has communicated behind closed doors is that increasing the debt ceiling will be a hard vote for Members of both parties. His idea? Let’s make it one tough vote that actually does something.

A CBS News poll showed 43 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the debt ceiling, while just 31 percent approved of how Congressional Democrats have behaved and only 21 percent approved of Republicans’ handling of the negotiations.

Winston’s advice to Republicans is not to worry too much about polls assessing a temporary situation before a compromise is finalized, and he said the nation’s voters are taking a longer view. “Is the public happy about the fact that it had to come down to getting this close? My sense is they would have preferred not to get it to this moment, but the important part is, what is the result?”

The White House is keenly aware the president looks like a problem solver when Democrats aren’t afraid to complain that he’s compromising too much with the GOP. Obama has mentioned often in speeches over the past few weeks that his own party isn’t happy with him.

Aides made sure to repeatedly highlight that Boehner did not return two calls from the president on Thursday and Friday.

Of course, Obama isn’t running against Boehner next fall.

Operatives in Chicago are closely watching the GOP presidential field and are taking a longer-term view of debt ceiling politics. They figure it can’t hurt to keep Obama talking about fat cats enjoying tax breaks, but they also want to highlight the Republicans’ support for House-approved plans that dramatically cut Medicare.

Democrats familiar with the campaign have been keeping tabs on which contenders back House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) “road map” plan and the Cut, Cap and Balance deal favored by the House GOP. They believe Obama will be able to successfully run against those proposals.

Sources close to Obama in both Washington, D.C., and Chicago said voters can expect to hear a lot more of the talking points about compromise that the president used during a town hall in Maryland on Friday. He said that voters expect solutions from Washington and that lawmakers should avoid using this debate to score political points.

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