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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

GOP sees defense cuts as path to compromise

June 27, 2011

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WASHINGTON — As President Obama prepares to meet today with Senate leaders to try to restart talks about the swollen national debt, some Republicans see a potential path to compromise: significant cuts in military spending.

Senior GOP lawmakers and leadership aides said it would be far easier to build support for a debt-reduction package that cuts the Pentagon budget — a key Democratic demand — than one that raises revenue by tinkering with the tax code. Last week, Republicans walked out of talks led by Vice President Joe Biden, insisting that the White House take tax increases off the table.

In listening sessions with their rank and file, House Republican leaders said they have found a surprising willingness to consider defense cuts that would have been unthinkable five years ago, when they last controlled the House. While the sessions have sparked heated debate on many issues, Representative Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican and deputy GOP whip, said there are few lawmakers left who view the Pentagon budget as sacrosanct.

“When we say everything is on the table, that’s what we mean,’’ said House majority whip Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, the No. 3 leader who has been hosting the listening sessions in his Capitol offices.

With the Aug. 2 deadline approaching, defense spending has been a major stumbling block in talks between the two parties, though the tax issue is seen as the biggest hurdle.

The GOP has not been entirely closed to tax changes, according to people in both parties. They mentioned a proposal to adjust the way business inventory is taxed, which could generate as much as $70 billion over the next decade, as one potential area of compromise.

Another $60 billion could be generated by wiping out subsidies for ethanol blenders. — WASHINGTON POST

Debt ceiling ‘scare tactics’ being used, Bachmann says
On the eve of her entry into the 2012 GOP presidential race, Representative Michele Bachmann said “scare tactics’’ are being used by those warning of an economic calamity unless Congress raises the government’s borrowing limit by an August deadline.

The three-term congresswoman from Minnesota said the United States could avoid a default by paying only the interest on federal obligations while lawmakers work on a deal to cut spending dramatically before a new debt ceiling is approved.

Such an approach has been derided as unworkable by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Bachmann, a Tea Party movement favorite, plans to kick off her campaign today in Waterloo, Iowa, her birthplace. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Obama’s use of autopen to sign bill draws criticism
For decades, presidents of have let an autopen do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to scrawling their signatures on letters and other mementos. But in what was apparently a first, the machine was recently put to use signing a bill into law.

Traveling in Europe last month when lawmakers passed an extension of certain provisions of the Patriot Act, President Obama employed the autopen to sign it because there was no time to fly the bill to France for his signature before the antiterrorism powers expired.

It was believed to be the first time a president used an autopen to sign legislation, and that did not sit well with 21 Republican House members, who sent Obama a letter on June 17 asking him to resign the legislation with his actual signature because use of the autopen “appears contrary to the Constitution.’’

Obama’s team relied on a legal analysis crafted during the administration of President George W. Bush to argue that the faux signature passed constitutional muster. — ASSOCIATED PRESS