Sen. Mike Johanns said he sees little chance of a "grand bargain" in 2012.
“I would take the list of Senators who have signed onto letters and attended the meetings on deficit reduction, and I would at least start working with them, small groups at a time ... and just start the conversation by saying, ‘How serious are you, and what are your bright lines?’” Johanns said. “Once the coalition becomes significant enough, they can assist you in bringing the others along that you need.”
Johanns also sees Obama’s effort to legislate from the White House through executive orders and the exercise of other powers as a dangerous strategy that could backfire. The strategy was outlined in Obama’s State of the Union address last month and is an effort to bolster the narrative that he is running against a do-nothing Congress.
Last month Obama made four controversial recess appointments in defiance of GOP attempts to prevent them. “I think the president is feeling the need to shore things up with his base,” Johanns said. “So he did the recess appointments. I am guessing that scored well with his base.”
The Health and Human Services Department also recently issued a rule requiring Catholic institutions, but not churches, to offer insurance coverage for birth control.
“He’s picked this fight on conscience issues,” Johanns said. “I am guessing that scores well with a base like he has; kind of re-establishes his credentials ...
“The down side of that is that he has really fired up the other side, too,” Johanns continued. “Twenty-five percent of the electorate is Catholic. Catholics may have been willing to look the other way on some issues [but] this conscience issue is a big deal; somebody telling their hospital or whatever that they have to provide services that are against their conscience doesn’t sit well. So he has picked a fight there that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.