Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is viewed more warmly by Iowa Republicans than many of the other possible contenders for the GOP’s presidential nod in 2016, a new Iowa Poll suggested this weekend.
Iowa Republicans who will launch the next presidential election’s nominating cycle view other Republican contenders like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sens. Rand Paul, Ky., and Ted Cruz, Texas, favorably. But no Republican has a bigger reservoir of goodwill than Paul, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee from neighboring Wisconsin.
Seventy-three percent of Iowa Republicans have a somewhat or very favorable impression of Ryan, the former GOP vice presidential nominee from neighboring Wisconsin. The reservoir of goodwill for the House Budget Committee chairman could translate to crucial support in Iowa come 2016, should Ryan decide to make his own bid for the presidency.
The next-most-popular Republicans were the two Republicans to win the past two Iowa caucuses: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (2008) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (2012). They’re seen favorably by 66 and 58 percent of Iowa Republicans, respectively.
Santorum has continued to stay active on political issues and in conservative media to preserve his 2016 options; Huckabee last week quit a radio show and begun to stoke speculation about his 2016 chances in the media.
Other Republicans lag behind Paul Ryan, Huckabee and Santorum – at least in relative terms. Most of the other Republicans tested in the poll registered numbers in the mid-40s to mid-50s.
The poll also contained a possible warning sign for Christie, a widely-acclaimed 2016 contender who might encounter difficulties in the Republican primaries, which are traditionally dominated by conservative activists. Thirty percent of Iowa GOPers have a mostly or very unfavorable opinion of Christie, versus 51 percent who see him mostly or very positively. Still, the numbers reflect a warning sign that the GOP governor’s brand of politics might wear thin in Iowa.
Rand Paul, who’s been to Iowa a number of times already in anticipation of a 2016 run, also wins somewhat mixed remarks, in relative terms. He’s seen favorably by 51 percent of Iowa Republicans, and unfavorably by 23 percent.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton remains an overwhelming favorite of Iowa Democrats, 89 percent of whom have a mostly or very positive impression of the former secretary of state. Vice President Joe Biden also fares well: he’s seen favorably by 71 percent of Iowa Democrats, and unfavorably by 18 percent.
The Iowa Poll was conducted by Selzer & Co. for the Des Moines Register from Dec. 8-11. The overall sample has a 3.8 percent margin of error; the subsamples of Iowa Republicans and Iowa Democrats have a larger, unspecified margin of error.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan defended conservative advocacy groups as an "indispensable" part of the GOP coalition after Speaker John Boehner had lashed out at those same groups for opposing a bipartisan budget framework that Ryan had helped author.
“I think these are very important elements of our conservative family,” he told Meet the Press moderator David Gregory in an interview airing on Sunday. “I would prefer to keep those conversations within the family.”
After a week in Washington that had laid bare many of the familiar dividing that separate elected Republicans and their party's insurgent, conservative wing, Ryan made nice with many of the groups that had mobilized in opposition to the budget agreement he forged with Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.
"I think these taxpayer groups are indispensable to keeping taxpayer interest accounted for, keeping people accountable," Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee said.
"And we sometimes have difference of opinions on tactics," he added. "We all believe the same thing with respect to our ultimate goal."
The House overwhelmingly approved the Ryan-Murray budget on Thursday with bipartisan support, though 62 House Republicans and 32 Democrats voted in opposition to the measure. The Senate is expected to take up the budget, which would stabilize government operations through late 2015, on Tuesday.
Though the budget proposal won over most House Republicans -- due, in part, to the sway Ryan holds among fiscal conservatives -- it did so over the objection of groups like the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity. Each of those groups had urged lawmakers to oppose the budget because it set spending levels above "sequester" caps. Those groups had alerted members that they would tally votes for purposes of yearly "scorecards" that can often prove influential during GOP primary fights in House and Senate races.
The opposition from conservative groups provoked rare backlash from Boehner, who said those groups "have lost all credibility," and suggested they are more interested in raising money than electing GOP lawmakers.
In his interview with NBC, Ryan sought to explain the speaker's harsh words toward those outside groups.
"I think John just kind of got his Irish up," Ryan said. "He was frustrated that these groups came out in opposition to our budget agreement before we reached a budget agreement. I was frustrated, too … I think he was just basically voicing his frustration with their opposition before we had reached our agreement."
Both Ryan and his negotiating partner, Murray, addressed the new budget deal as well as the impact Obamacare might have in next fall's midterm elections. Murray dismissed the notion that the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act's exchanges might weigh on Democrats next November.
"I do not believe they will," said Murray, the former head of Senate Democrats' campaign efforts. "I think people will see the results of this law, meaning more security for themselves, in terms of their own health care coverage."
While the politics of the healthcare law and immigration debate play out this week, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., are quietly working out the details of a possible two-year long budget agreement.
This would be significant because it would avert the threat of another government shutdown and allow both sides an opportunity to "regain some trust," according to a Democratic aide.
What could a deal look like?
Details are being kept purposely vague, but sources familiar with the ongoing negotiations have sketched out the following details:
The deal seeks to limit the impact of sequestration by finding other areas of government to raise revenues and also by cuts or reforms to programs. Ryan and Murray are exploring things like new airline fees or the sale of broadcast spectrum owned by the government to help offset the $967 billion cap on government spending put in place because of sequestration.
The supposed deal would also give various government agencies more leniency in how the implement aspects of the sequester.
When will this happen?
House Speaker John Boehner is determined to leave town on Dec. 13. Murray and Ryan will determine if the deal is done, and then Boehner and Reid would determine when to vote on it, preferable before they leave town.
Both sides tell NBC News that they are "optimistic" at this point that they can get it done before that date. The Senate is gone this week and Murray left her district to come back and work, a sign of progress.
It could be announced as early as the end of this week or as late as the middle of next week. Once announced, it would most likely go on an expedited path through both chambers and onto the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.
Also, since the current short-term government funding measure expires on Jan. 15, they have some time to work out the kinks.
As has been the case in recent Washington spending fights, nothing is for sure until a final agreement is reached.
Will the House GOP support it since it increases spending?
Some hardliner fiscal conservatives will most likely vote against any bipartisan bill because they won't like moving from the $967 billion number.
But if Ryan's finger prints are on it, it would help its chances of getting broader Republican support -- although the bill would still not be guaranteed to pass, considering how volatile the Republican conference is.
Budget deficits have fallen for four years in a row, down to nearly pre-recession levels in the last fiscal year. That may mean some pressure is off the House-Senate budget conference which held its second public meeting at the Capitol Wednesday.
Mary F. Calvert / Reuters
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the bicameral budget committee charged with crafting a long-term budget deal probably won't reach a "grand bargain.
The committee is up against a nominal Dec. 13 deadline to agree on a budget plan for the current fiscal year and beyond. But no immediate funding halt or government shutdown would occur on that date if the panel can’t agree on a blueprint. The real deadline is Jan. 15, the date by which a new spending bill must be enacted.
House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wisc., said at Wednesday’s meeting that he and Senate Budget Chairman Sen. Patty Murray have been conferring with each other privately since the budget conference committee’s last public meeting, but “we’re not there yet” on clinching a deal.
Murray confirmed this: “We have had a number of discussions since our last (public) meeting regarding the parameters of a potential deal and I’ve been very encouraged by those conversations. They are going to continue.”
It’s understood that if there’s a deal it will be Ryan and Murray who’ll have to design it. A “deal” means a budget plan that would set spending and revenue targets for the congressional spending and tax- committees to meet.
At least for now, the 27 other members of the committee are extras in this performance – although they did get to use Wednesday’s meeting to quiz the witness, Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf, about the nation’s finances.
Elmendorf had some grim reminders – federal debt will grow over the next 20 years and “debt is already larger relative to the size of the economy than at any time in our history, except for a brief period around World War II.”
And as he has often warned before, Elmendorf said “the federal budget is on an unsustainable path…. You know the main reasons: retirement of Boomers and the rising cost of health care are pushing up the costs of the largest federal programs.”
And under questioning from Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D- Wisc., he described how the very high and what he called “very worrisome” level of long-term unemployment (being without a job for at least 27 weeks) is inflicting damage to the economy, reducing potential U.S. economic output by 1.5 percent by the end of this decade. And of course, if more of these people were working, federal revenues would be higher, and deficits and future debt would be smaller.
Even if you can’t do a compromise deal, Elmendorf told committee members, it would good for the economy if you could reduce some of the uncertainty about fiscal policy in 2014.
“Small steps are better than no steps at all,” he told the committee. “Move the ball a little bit.”
And he urged committee members not to become depressed by the ugly numbers that he brought. “When I make presentations like this, I worry that can my toting up all economic and budget challenges our country faces can make the problem seem so large that it actually discourages people from acting. That would be unfortunate.”
One possibility sketched by Sen. Ron Wyden, D - Ore. at Wednesday’s meeting: a budget deal that led to closing a few tax loopholes – but not aiming to do a comprehensive redesign of the entire tax code, instead leaving that for the future. “I think it’s possible to have our feet in both camps,” Wyden told reporters after the meeting. “The reality is that tax reform is not going to be enacted in the same timetable as we’re dealing with here” in the budget conference committee. But maybe “a down payment on tax reform” is possible as one result of the Ryan-Murray negotiations.
Some Republicans see the cuts in spending, the sequester cuts, that were in the 2011 Budget Control Act as hard-won and real spending cuts, and they don’t want to give them up.
The sequester for 2014 is overall a cut of about $109 billion, or about three percent of total federal spending. But entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Social Security are mostly exempt, so the sequester is concentrated on military spending and domestic discretionary spending – items like medical research and staffing of federal agencies.
Both parties are facing pressure from their constituents to soften or cancel the sequester cuts. Republicans, for example, are increasingly at odds with their national defense constituency.
Last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said the sequester “will make it very difficult to conduct even one sustained major combat operation.” The Army, he said, “scrambled in 2013 to come up with the dollars to meet our sequestration marks (and) there's things we did that, frankly, mortgaged our future.”
He said “we stopped training” soldiers and if the sequester continues, “we will not be able to train them for the mission they're going to have to do. We will have to send them without the proper training and actually maybe proper equipment that they need….” This will mean “potentially higher casualties” when the president order troops into harm’s way, he said.
This story was originally published on Wed Nov 13, 2013 7:16 PM EST
The deal struck Wednesday in Washington could make it easier for lawmakers to make big changes to tax policy, spending and entitlement programs.
Here’s a look at what is in the accord, what didn’t make the cut and what’s coming down the pipeline.
This deal is an important way forward for big policy changes
While a lot of the news focused on the aspects of the deal that ended the shutdown and prevented default, the plan also calls for an agreement by mid-December on a long-term budget plan.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday that under his agreement with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, the two leaders would name members to a bicameral budget conference committee “that will set our country on a long-term path to fiscal sustainability.”
Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid announces a bipartisan deal has been reached in the Senate to raise the debt limit and reopen the government.
The House and Senate each have already passed their own conflicting versions of a budget plan for 2014. The aim of this committee would be to come up with a compromise budget blueprint which would then be put to a vote in each House.
This blueprint could be the vehicle for major policy changes intended to reduce budget deficits and debt. These might include tax increases and curbs in the entitlement programs such as Medicare.
The budget plan could also include a relaxation of the cuts in discretionary spending -- the sequester -- that are required by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The ultimate deal may end up looking like the one that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., proposed last week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: “We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.”
Ryan -- who would be a leader of the conference committee -- said what he has in mind “isn’t a grand bargain,” but “modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.”
He noted approvingly that Obama has already called for wealthier retirees to pay higher premiums for their Medicare coverage than they now do.
A filibuster-proof fast track to reform
Under Senate rules, a budget resolution is subject to a special fast-track process. The rules do not allow a member -- Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, or any other senator -- to use a filibuster to block it. This fast-track process is called “budget reconciliation.”
“Probably the most important part of budget reconciliation is that a reconciliation bill can approve policy reforms with only 51 votes in the Senate,” said Loren Adler, the research director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. This fast-track process “could be critical in increasing the chances for tax reform” and reform of entitlement programs to succeed.
Adler added, “Now that we have lawmakers back to the negotiating table, this is our best opportunity to enact a deal to reform our entitlements and tax code, restore investments and put our debt on a sustainable downward path as a share of the economy.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee that the conference committee members will be able to agree on a plan.
Taking a pessimistic view was Jason Fichtner, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University who served as chief economist of the Social Security Administration.
“We’ve been here before,” Fichtner said. “How can we seriously expect any new conference committee to resolve the same difficult decisions that faced the (2011) Super Committee, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (a.k.a. Simpson-Bowles) and have faced the House and Senate that resulted in this government shutdown in the first place? We can’t.”
President Barack Obama speaks at the White House Wednesday evening after the U.S. Senate voted to pass a bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.
What Republicans were able to keep as part of the agreement
McConnell said Wednesday as the deal was unveiled that he was confident that “we’ll be able to announce that we’re protecting the government spending reductions that both parties agreed to under the Budget Control Act and that the president signed into law. That’s been a top priority for me and for my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle throughout this debate and it’s been worth the effort.”
But the conference committee might end up reducing or cancelling some of those Budget Control Act spending reductions.
What the accord doesn’t include
The goals that conservative Republicans had been seeking since the standoff started last month were not part of the bill Congress passed Wednesday night.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Twitter: “To say we as Republicans left a lot on the table would be one of the biggest understatements in American political history.”
In particular, Republicans did not get:
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Lawmakers passed a late night bill that, once President Obama signs it, will end the first government shutdown in 17 years and prevent the government from defaulting on its debt.
This story was originally published on Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:58 AM EDT
The House of Representatives successfully passed Republicans' 2014 budget on Thursday with four votes to spare, relying only upon GOP votes to advance Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's third budget blueprint.
The House voted 221-207, largely along party lines, to advance the budget for the next government fiscal year. The plan seeks to balance the budget within a decade, primarily by saving $4.6 trillion through cuts to spending, and reforms to Medicare that would transform the plan into a "premium support" (or voucher) system.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., explains to fellow members of the House why his budget proposal should be approved.
Ten Republicans joined with Democrats, all of whom opposed the Ryan budget, to vote against the plan. Due to the defections, Republicans only passed their budget by an extra margin of four votes. Ten Republicans also opposed last year's budget, though there were 241 total GOP members of the House last year, versus 232 sitting Republicans at the time of today's vote.
The budget is the third passed by Republicans since retaking the House in the 2010 elections. But like the two preceding budgets, Ryan's 2014 fiscal blueprint will likely never become law, due to opposition from both the president and Senate Democrats.
The House moved quickly following the budget vote to pass legislation settling spending levels for the rest of this fiscal year, which concludes at the end of September.
The House voted 318-109 with bipartisan support to pass a continuing resolution funding the government through that date, averting a government shutdown that would have occurred at the end of March if spending authority had run out. The Senate passed that legislation on Wednesday, and it now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature, once he returns from a foreign trip to Israel.
Paul Ryan — the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee — declined to weigh in on the direction of his party during a speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference and focused his remarks instead on the budget he authored this week
At the Conservative Political Action Conference, Rep. Paul Ryan spoke extensively about the budget he produced earlier in the week.
The Wisconsin congressman, who chairs the House Budget Committee, focused his remarks at CPAC almost exclusively on the budget he produced on Tuesday, the third he has written as chairman of the panel.
Ryan's budgets helped build his notoriety among conservatives, and propelled him to the spot as Mitt Romney's running mate last fall. But amid Republican soul-searching about the party's path forward, Ryan stuck to remarks about his budget — a series of proposals that are already generally popular among conservatives.
"This has been a really big week. We got white smoke from the Vatican, and we got a budget from the Senate," he joked. "But when you read it, you find the Vatican's not the only place blowing smoke this week."
Ryan's just one of several speakers thought to be possible contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Among others, Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., both spoke yesterday.
Those two senators concentrated their remarks mostly on the direction of the GOP, and why — or why not — the party is in need of reinvention.
Carolyn Kaster / AP
House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks about the 2014 Budget Resolution during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
Ryan's remarks were mostly a rehash of his press conferences and media appearances in support of his budget.
"Today, I want to make the case for balance," he said. "That case, in a nutshell, is that a balanced budget will create a healthier economy."
The man whom Ryan hoped would become president this year, Mitt Romney, will address CPAC later this afternoon.
This story was originally published on Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:11 AM EDT
The Republican Party’s internal struggle over how to expand its reach will play out in stark relief at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, with activists locked in a near-civil war over the basic question of who should be part of the movement – and who should not.
This year’s meeting has already made news with its exclusion of notable names from the invite list: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
There will be plenty of conservative stars, like Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, along with 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (among other potential 2016 presidential candidates). And attendees will have a chance to reacquaint themselves with familiar names and faces from the not-so-distant past such as Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and the ubiquitous Donald Trump.
Why did CPAC make another snub? Jim VandeHei joins Morning Joe to discuss.
But the annual conservative confab comes at a serious and crucial moment for the Republican Party: Its last two presidential nominees lost decisively to President Barack Obama, and its lone instrument of power -- the GOP majority in the House -- has been constantly plagued by infighting between conservative insurgents and its establishment-minded leadership.
And the American right seems as divided as ever over the path forward.
“I think, increasingly, we as Republicans have come across as intolerant and unfocused on the needs of the underserved,” said Fred Malek, a fixture of GOP politics for decades.
“And we need to speak much more to the aspirational needs of people, and not speak about the dependence of the ‘47 percent,’” he added, referencing 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s infamous comments, “but rather how the ‘47 percent’ become part of the 25 percent or 10 percent or 1 percent.”
Ideological fealty to marginalize GOP?
That internal struggle threatens to spill into the open at CPAC, a gathering that has been established as an important gathering for official Republicans, yet still attracts the kind of stalwart conservative activists who have helped to ignite this GOP family feud.
“I thought it was a mistake to exclude Christie,” said Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman who remains active in the party’s political leadership. “It reinforces this narrow, closed stereotype of Republicans.”
Christie angered conservatives by agreeing to implement insurance exchanges under Obama’s health care reform law, and for praising the president’s handling of Hurricane Sandy just days before the election. McDonnell upset conservatives with his new transportation law, which includes some new taxes.
“I would argue that they do not have too much to offer up in terms of the future of the conservative movement,” Jeff Bell, of the American Principles Project, said of the two governors.
Those warring views cut to the heart of the modern GOP’s internal rift. On one side are conservatives who are eager to excommunicate Republicans who commit the slightest act of ideological heresy. The other faction is composed of Republicans who worry that the party’s insistence on ideological fealty will continue to marginalize the GOP amid a changing electorate.
Though no immediate resolution is in sight, the Republican National Committee will weigh in following its own autopsy of the party’s shortcomings during last fall’s elections. It will recommend improved digital operations and a more robust outreach, but is also expected to emphasize the need for some candidates to speak in less shrill terms about sensitive issues.
“We can’t run the same campaigns. For some, it means that boneheaded comments about rape and women – that’s just not going to fly,” said a source familiar with the report, referencing GOP Senate candidates in Indiana and Missouri who lost winnable races last fall due to their controversial comments about rape.
Romney's first remarks since election
The forthcoming RNC report and this week’s CPAC gathering add up to a potentially pivotal week for the future of the party.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file photo
Sen. Marco Rubio addresses the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 9, 2012.
And though McDonnell and Christie were excluded from the gathering, other corners of the GOP will be well-represented. Tea Party darlings like Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will each speak.
Also on display will be conservatives who may hope to unify the GOP as the party’s presidential nominee in 2016. Along with Rubio, Paul and Ryan, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will also address attendees.
The influential conference concludes with an oft-hyped, closely watched straw poll of attendees’ preference in a presidential nominee.
A past winner of two such straw polls, Romney, will make his first public speech since the election on Friday. And former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose national star power has waxed and waned in the scope of a single presidential election cycle, will speak on Saturday.
“There’s going to be a lot of heat, but not much light,” on the presidential front said Craig Shirley, a Reagan biographer and conservative PR guru. “It’s not going to resolve itself until the first stirrings of the 2014 midterm elections.”
This story was originally published on Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:31 AM EDT
When House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan was asked why his latest budget repeals the 2010 federal health-care -- despite the results of last year's presidential election -- the former Republican vice-presidential running mate gave this answer.
"So just because the election didn't go our way," he told National Review," that means we're supposed to change our principles?"
But on the eve of the three-day Conference Political Action Conference (CPAC) that begins on Thursday in the DC area and that will hear from countless Republican politicians, Ryan's answer raises this follow-up question:
What principles -- beyond opposing President Obama's agenda?
Is the GOP a free-market party, or one that's willing to federally bail out the banks if the country is on the brink of another Great Depression?
Is it a party that believes in strong national defense, or is it willing to wage a nearly 13-hour filibuster to highlight how drones could infringe on civil liberties?
Is the GOP a party that stresses deficit reduction and balanced budgets above all else, or is it one willing to support unpaid-for wars and unpaid-for new entitlements?
Is it a party that favors comprehensive immigration reform, or that opposes it?
Does the GOP oppose tax increases, or will it vote for raising rates on the wealthiest Americans?
And is it a party that opposes gay marriage, or one that's becoming more accepting of it?
Yes, the GOP believes in lower taxes and less government. But as Politico's Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman write, many of the tensions above will be on display at CPAC as the party -- after its second-straight presidential loss -- finds itself in the midst of an "identity crisis."
"The pillars of the conservative era ushered in by Reagan — a muscular defense, traditional cultural values and devotion to free markets – are being questioned by leading Republicans, and what could take the place of the Gipper’s trinity is now being openly debated in a fashion more reminiscent of the famously fractious Democrats of yore."
Ryan, who speaks at CPAC on Friday, embodies many of these very tensions. He warns of deficits and debt, but supported the Iraq war, the Bush tax cuts, and the Medicare prescription-drug benefit. He believes in the free market, but voted for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (or TARP). And he now supports comprehensive immigration reform (and maybe even a path to citizenship), but was on a presidential ticket opposing it.
Of course, it's only natural for a party outside the White House to experience an identity crisis. After all, there's no one true leader to unify the different constituencies. And the one unifying force is opposing the president in power -- and that's true whether a Democrat or Republican sits in the Oval Office.
Indeed, after their second-straight presidential loss in 2004, Democrats faced a similar identity crisis. Should it strenuously oppose the Iraq war, or support it? Push for universal health care, or ignore it? Disagree with the Bush-era tax cuts, or call for them to expire?
Yet by the time the Democratic race for president began, the top candidates -- Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson -- were unified on all the big issues. They opposed the Iraq war; they supported universal health care; they were against the Bush tax cuts. That's why the Democratic primary was fought over the margins (like whether there should be a mandate for health insurance).
And for Republicans, that's the story to watch over the next couple of years. It's one thing for the party to experience an identity crisis in 2013 and 2014. It's another thing -- as Obama prepares to exit office -- to experience that in 2015 and 2016.
Republicans on Tuesday debuted their full 2014 budget, an ambitious proposal that would seek to balance the budget within a decade, but which is also almost certain to never become law.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the Republican budget chief and 2012 vice presidential nominee, called his third budget an "invitation" to President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats to begin bargaining toward a deal to balance the budget.
"This is not only a responsible, reasonable, balanced plan," Ryan said, "it's also an invitation. This is an invitation to the president of the United States, to the Senate Democrats to come together to fix these problems."
Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan details his fiscal plan that includes a two-bracket tax structure.
But just as Obama has made new overtures to Ryan and other Capitol Hill Republicans in hopes of breaking the fiscal logjam in Congress, Ryan produced a new budget that offers up few concessions to Democrats, and doubles down upon many of the policies on which Republicans campaigned during last fall's election.
The new Ryan budget calls for repealing Obama's signature health care reform law, and sweeping changes to Medicare for anyone under the age of 54 -- familiar policies for which Republicans have aggressively pushed during the last two years. The budget's goal would be to eliminate all but two income tax brackets, one at 10 percent and the other at 25 percent; it would raise no new revenue through taxes, cutting against the president's own demands for additional revenue.
"While the House Republican budget aims to reduce the deficit, the math just doesn't add up," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
But the White House stopped short of waging a blistering assault on the Ryan plan, offering a glimmer of hope that bipartisanship might still eventually carry the day.
"While the president disagrees with the House Republican approach, we all agree we need to leave a better future for our children," Carney said. "The president will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to grow the economy and cut the deficit in a balanced way."
Still, Ryan defended the generally unflinching conservatism of his budget.
"That means we surrender our principles? That means we stop believing in what we believe in?" he asked at a press conference to debut his proposals. "Elections do have consequences ... This is our offer, this is our vision."
Must-Read Op-Eds: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is expected plans to introduce a plan to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, and Mika Brzezinski reads from Ryan's latest WSJ column on the issue.
The GOP proposal comes amid new overtures by Obama to Republicans in Congress. The president had lunch last week with Ryan, and dinner with a group of GOP senators. Obama will address House and Senate Republicans separately this week, marking a pivot in his strategy toward vexing fiscal issues following bruising battles over the fiscal cliff during the first two months of this year.
Related: Ryan plan sparks budget battle
This latest GOP plan -- the third authored by Ryan since Republicans retook the House in 2010 -- is the opening salvo in a spring full of budget battles, culminating in the mid-May expiration of the nation's borrowing authority. Congress authorized a suspension of the debt limit through that deadline, but made it contingent upon the House and Senate each passing their own budget. (Republicans have repeatedly needled Senate Democrats for failing to pass a budget in recent years.)
"I hate to break the suspense, but their budget won't balance—ever," Ryan wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. "We House Republicans have done our part … Now we invite the president and Senate Democrats to join in the effort."
Mandel Ngan / Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan makes his way to the West Wing on March 7, 2013 for a lunch with President Barack Obama.
Ryan's blueprint claims to achieve $4.6 trillion in savings over through 2023, and steadily reduce government spending as a share of gross domestic product in the meantime. In his op-ed, Ryan asserted the reforms could boost gross national product by as much as 1.7 percent. Ryan's previous plan projected a balanced budget outside of ten years.
But the plan also relies on savings accrued from two plans which Republicans had staunchly opposed: the new taxes on the wealthy in the Jan. 1 fiscal cliff deal, and the $715 billion in savings from cuts to Medicare providers as part of Obama's health care reform law.
Of the new taxes, Ryan said that Republicans were "not going to re-fight the past." When pressed as to how that principle squares with his budget's goal of repealing Obamacare, Ryan pivoted, and said that the health reform law would be so onerous, that the eventual GOP replacement would be an improvement.
It would achieve its goal through a series of sweeping reforms, most of which are unlikely to survive the Democratic Senate or a presidential veto threat.
Ryan's budget again seeks changes to Medicare, namely by establishing an exchange of private plans (including traditional Medicare) from which seniors could choose, with the assistance of a premium support voucher. The plan would apply for those under the age of 54 — a threshold one year younger than past Ryan proposals — and also employ means-testing, in which wealthier seniors pay a higher share of their premiums.
The Ryan budget also calls for repealing the health care reform law (though it would leave in place savings from cuts in payments to medical providers, a component against which Ryan and Mitt Romney railed during last fall's campaign).
The campaign also focused heavily on Ryan's past budgets, as Obama and Democratic candidates downballot railed against similar proposed changes to entitlement programs. Those attacks offered a vivid illustration of the political difficulties in putting such aggressive reform plans to paper. That experience helped inform the GOP's demand that Democrats produce their own alternative budget, through which Republican staffers will surely comb to exploit politically.
Ryan's own budget isn't short on additional conservative prescriptions, either. The 2014 budget calls for sweeping tax reform, with a goal of cutting the top corporate tax rate to 25 percent, and simplifying the income tax into two brackets. The tax cuts would be financed by closing loopholes and deductions in the tax code.
The Republican budget will also touch upon other social programs. It would block-grant Medicaid to states, and allow states more flexibility, too, in implementing welfare programs. Ryan's plan would also freeze the current maximum support for students awarded as Pell Grants, a popular program with students (and young voters) that Obama had expanded in his first term.
The proposals, as a whole, amount to a deeply conservative set of proposals offered against the backdrop of new hopes for bipartisan fiscal talks in Washington.
Obama's renewed outreach — and Republicans' relatively warm reception of it — has stoked the embers of hope that lawmakers may finally reach the kind of grand fiscal deal that has eluded them during the past few years. As Ryan unveils his new budget, Obama's own reaction could either preserve these renewed hopes, or allow them to wither after just a few days.
To that end, Obama was set to speak to House Republicans on Wednesday, and Senate Republicans on Thursday. He was also scheduled to give an interview to ABC News on Tuesday, which could be his first on-camera reactions to Ryan's new proposal.
This story was originally published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 10:07 AM EDT
It is polls like this that supporters of Hillary Clinton hope will drag the popular former secretary of state into the 2016 presidential race.
In a Quinnipiac poll out Thursday, the ex-New York senator beats all comers in the 2016 presidential field in hypothetical match ups against several top rivals.
The poll tested Democrats Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo individually against Republicans -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who ran as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick in 2012 against President Barack Obama.
Clinton was the only Democrat to beat all three Republicans, and Christie, who was not invited to next week’s conservative confab CPAC, showed the most strength for the GOP.
The Gaggle talks about the recent Quinnipiac Poll favorability numbers on Hillary Clinton and her potentially running in 2016, Stephen Colbert and his sister running for Congress and give their shameless plugs.
Clinton beats Christie, 45-37 percent, Ryan 50-38 percent, and Rubio by an even wider 50-34 percent.
By contrast, Biden would lose narrowly to Christie 43-40 percent. Biden, however, defeats Rubio 45-38 percent and Ryan 45-42 percent.
Cuomo -- son of ex-Gov. Mario Cuomo, who had been urged to run for president in 1988 and 1992 -- loses badly to neighboring state governor Christie, 45-28 percent. He also loses to Ryan, 42-37 percent and would tie with Rubio at 37 percent.
Clinton left her job as Obama’s secretary of state with sky-high favorability ratings -- 56 percent viewed her positively, while just 25 percent viewed her negatively.
Of course, if she were to throw her hat into the presidential arena, her image would likely take a hit, as partisans retreat to their corners. During the height of the Democratic primary in March 2008, for example, Clinton’s favorability was just 37 percent positive, 48 percent negative.
But as the primary campaign ended, and she was able to take on the statesman role of secretary of state, her image has been rehabilitated.
This story was originally published on Thu Mar 7, 2013 8:57 AM EST