Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Washington Post Morning Fix: Five Republican Senators to watch in Obama debt meeting

Five Republican Senators to watch in Obama debt meeting

By Chris Cillizza and Rachel Weiner

On Wednesday President Obama huddled with Senate Democrats to talk about the coming debate over raising the debt ceiling and the larger fight over federal spending.

Today Obama sits down with Senate Republicans in what, almost certainly, will be a more contentious gathering.

Below is our look at five GOP senators to watch both in today’s meeting and the broader debt debate. (Missed our look at the five Democratic Senators to watch? Check it out here.)

* Scott Brown: The Massachusetts Republican is up for election to a full term in 2012 in one of the most Democratic states in the country. It’s imperative for his electoral hopes to find places where he can break with the GOP in hopes of burnishing his credentials as an common-sense centrist. Brown has said he is opposed to raising the debt ceiling unless such a move is tied to “serious spending reforms”. He hasn’t elaborated on what constitutes “serious”reforms though, a position that leaves him plenty of wiggle room.

* Tom Coburn:Coburn is one of the three Republican members of the “Gang of Six”, a group that has taken on the enormous challenge of translating the President’s debt commission recommendations into bipartisan legislation. Coburn is one of the most conservative members of the Senate but also someone willing to take on party orthodoxy — particularly on the issue of taxes. Witness his call to end a $5 billion subsidy on ethanol that has drawn the ire of conservative tax activist Grover Norquist.

* Jon Kyl: Kyl is in a unique — and potential awkward — political position in the debate. He’s the Senate Majority Whip, the second highest ranking member of the party leadership, and a reliable conservative. But he’s also a member of the “Gang of Six” who is retiring at the end of 2012 and may be looking for an accomplishment to serve as a capstone to a long political career. Kyl set a high bar for compromise earlier this week, suggesting that Republicans will ask for $6 trillion in cuts in exchange for a debt limit increase.

* Rob Portman:Portman isn’t the highest profile freshman senator — that’s the guy below him on this list — but he may be the best regarded member of the freshman class by other Republican senators. Portman is well versed in budget fights, having served as the Office of Management and Budget director during the Bush Administration. He’s also from a swing state (Ohio) and is, by nature, someone who wants to try to find a way to an agreement.

* Marco Rubio: Rubio spent his first few months in the Senate declining interviews and taking a decidedly low profile despite talk that he was the party’s Next Big Thing. He broke that (relative) silence by penning an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in opposition to raising the debt ceiling unless it was accompanied by major tax and spending cuts and reforms. Rubio’s status as a rising star coupled with his strong support from within the tea party nationally means that when he talks, people will listen.

Gingrich promises new ‘Contract’: In his first interview as an official candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich promised a new ‘Contract with America’ along the lines of the list of pledges made by House Republicans before their 1994 victories.

Gingrich would work with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to draft a “team contract.”

“If we had a contract in the fall of 2012, and if we had an election on core principles and we won that election,” Gingrich said, “then we would have a mandate starting on the very first day with executive orders.”In 2010, House Republicans put out a ‘Pledge to America’ that did not get as much traction.

WSJ not convinced: The Wall Street Journal has published a scathing editorial about Mitt Romney in advance of the former Massachusetts governor’s big health-care speech today.

While the editorial board grants that Romney’s ideas for the 2012 are ”likely to be sensible,” they argue that “his failure to explain his own role or admit any errors suggests serious flaws both in his candidacy and as a potential President. ... If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.”

Romney’s staff has emphasized that he will not apologize for the reforms he helped implement in Massachusetts, which he contends were right for that state but not a national model. Instead, he will try to shift the debate to the 2012 plan he laid out in this morning’s USA Today.


  • Jack Davis, the potential spoiler in New York’s 26th district special election, appeard to strike the camera of a Republican volunteer last night.

  • A federal judge has refused to stop the implementation of Indiana’s law defunding Planned Parenthood.

  • Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), facing a tough primary challenge, has declined to join Democrats in reintroducing the DREAM Act, immigration legislation he co-sponsored in 2005.

  • Bob Ellsworth, an adviser to President Nixon and a Kansas Republican lawmaker, has died at 83.

  • Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels “chooses to believe” that no rival GOP campaign would dredge up details about his marriage, a spokeswoman told the Post.

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