Political notebook

Lawmakers look at plan with automatic cuts, tax hikes

President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, spoke during a town hall meeting discussing ways to reduce the national deficit yesterday at the social media company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, spoke during a town hall meeting discussing ways to reduce the national deficit yesterday at the social media company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
April 21, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Senate and House members, seeking to break an impasse over curbing the nation’s debt, are looking at a “club in the closet’’ mechanism that would force Republicans to agree to tax increases and Democrats to accept cuts to entitlement programs.

Proposals being circulated among the bipartisan group of Senate negotiators known as the “Gang of Six’’ and about 20 other lawmakers in both chambers would set deficit-cutting targets, according to people familiar with the plan. They would impose automatic, across-the-board spending reductions and higher taxes if Congress failed to meet the goals.

Such plans — dubbed save-as-you-go — contrast with the immediate spending cuts House GOP freshmen are demanding.

“The enforcement mechanism is key to striking a deal,’’ said Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a group that promotes balanced budgets. That is because Republicans are worried Democrats will never accept entitlement-benefit cuts, while Democrats doubt that Republicans would agree to tax increases, he said.

The imperative to reach an agreement gained urgency this week when Standard & Poor’s put the federal government on notice that it risks losing its AAA credit rating unless policy makers agree on a plan by 2013 to reduce budget deficits and the national debt.

— Bloomberg News

GOP official defends e-mail depicting Obama as chimp FULLERTON, Calif. — An Orange County GOP official who sent an e-mail depicting President Obama as a chimpanzee said yesterday she considered the e-mail political satire — not racist — and would not step down, even as local party leaders called for her resignation and launched an ethics investigation.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Marilyn Davenport read from a written apology she first issued two days ago and said her constituents were urging her not to resign her position on the Republican Party’s Orange County Central Committee.

Shortly after her remarks, the California State NAACP demanded that she apologize to Obama and asked GOP officials to begin recall procedures against her.

“I feel that it was inappropriate, and I offended people,’’ Davenport said, flanked by her husband and by longtime GOP activist Tim Whitacre. “I think it’s only racist when the intent in my heart is to make it that way, and that was not the intent in my heart.’’

Until yesterday, Davenport had not publicly addressed the firestorm created by her e-mail, which depicts three chimps dressed in human clothes sitting as if for a family portrait. Obama’s face is superimposed over the baby chimp’s face and the text under the image reads, “Now you know why — No birth certificate!’’

— Associated Press

Bidders may be required to disclose contributions WASHINGTON — The White House says it is considering requiring companies pursuing federal contracts to disclose their campaign contributions.

A spokesman, Jay Carney, said that would be achieved by an executive order that is being drafted.

With President Obama officially a candidate for reelection, Carney denied any political motives behind the effort.

Carney said Obama wants to make the contracting system more transparent and more accountable because that is what US taxpayers deserve.

The spokesman talked to reporters as Obama flew to California for two days of public appearances mixing town hall meetings on the state of the economy with high-dollar campaign fund-raisers.

— Associated Press

Jets carrying Obama’s wife to receive higher scrutiny WASHINGTON — Aircraft carrying the president’s wife or vice president will receive a higher level of scrutiny from air traffic controllers following an aborted landing of a plane carrying Michelle Obama this week, the Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday.

From now on, flights carrying Obama or Vice President Joe Biden will be handled by an air traffic supervisor rather than a controller, the agency said in a statement.

Flights with the president on board are already required to be handled by a supervisor.

The incident involving Obama and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, occurred at about 5 p.m. on Monday when a Boeing 737 belonging to the Air National Guard, one of several guard planes used by the White House, came closer to a massive C-17 cargo plane than agency rules allow.

The planes were approaching Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

— Associated Press