Obama’s Upcoming Deficit Speech Leaves Dems “Scrambling”

Going it alone?<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/4014581906">Chuck Kennedy/White House photo.


When the White House announced on the Sunday talk shows that President Obama would be giving a major speech on the deficit—responding to Rep. Paul Ryan’s drastic 2012 budget proposal—it came as news to more than just the viewership of Meet the Press. House Democrats were taken aback by the announcement that Obama would be making a big move to address the deficit this week, according to a House Democratic aide. 

Many Congressional Democrats found out about Obama’s surprise speech by watching the Sunday shows, as top Obama aide David Plouffe made the rounds to note that the president would lay out a plan for long-term deficit reduction this week. “Plouffe’s announcement yesterday morning did leave us scrambling, that’s something we’re working on right now,” the House aide said on Monday.

House Democrats had already been preparing to release their own 2012 budget, under the leadership of Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the budget committee. The House Dems’ budget plan had been in the works for weeks, as Van Hollen had been meeting with every major caucus in his party to craft an alternative to the Republicans’ plan. Last week, the GOP’s decision to push out Ryan’s plan to radically alter Medicare and Medicaid in the middle of the 2011 budget fight threw Democrats for a loop. Now the news of Obama’s speech has left Dems on Capitol Hill grappling with another unexpected turn of events that could force them to change their plans, as they won’t want to be too out of sync with whatever Obama proposes.

Last week, congressional Democrats successfully united behind the message that Ryan’s plan would “end Medicare as we know it”—an effective cudgel to use against the GOP. But as I explained last Tuesday, Ryan’s plan could also work against his opponents by baiting the Democrats to meet him halfway on a radical plan. Now liberals fear that Obama may be taking the GOP bait, as he vows to make his own reforms to Medicare and Medicaid—an approach that could put a split between the White House and Congressional Democrats on entitlement reform. Obama’s speech on Wednesday may end up playing well with centrist-minded independent voters, his target audience. But the timing seems to have unsettled members of his own party on Capitol Hill.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.