West Wing briefing: What will Obama do to avoid a government shutdown?

April 5, 2011

What will President Obama do to avoid a government shutdown?

Since Democrats lost a large number of seats in the November elections, nearly every one of the White House’s domestic moves has been aimed at aiding the economy or reducing the partisanship in Washington, two major goals that the administration believes will help Obama win reelection.

White House officials have for weeks said a government shutdown could hurt the economy. It would also show Obama unable to bring the two parties together.

The president has called a meeting at the White House on Tuesday to work out a deal. But none of his choices is ideal:

— Accept more cuts than the $33 billion the administration says House Republicans agreed to last week. (House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says there’s been no agreement on a number.)

— Keep in the bill more of the policy provisions called riders that many Democrats don’t like. One of the most controversial would cut government funding for Planned Parenthood; another would bar the use of federal money to implement the health-care law passed last year.

— Agree to a new GOP proposal for $12 billion cut to keep the government operating for another week. (The White House has already said it will not agree, a congressional aide told the Washington Post on Tuesday morning.)

— Assume that the GOP will relent in the face of a shutdown and accept something close to the original $33 billion

Although Obama has given major speeches on the economy and Libya, he was trying to maintain a low profile role in this debate, as White House officials view this as simply the first part of a year-long fight over spending and the size of the federal government.

Now, with both sides escalating their rhetoric, Obama might need to do more to resolve the impasse.

Unlike Boehner, who faces a strong group of Republican freshmen who will oppose any deal they deem insufficient, Obama probably will be able to persuade most Democrats in the House and Senate to accept to an agreement that he backs.

But at the same time, Obama is about to launch a major fundraising drive for his reelection campaign and could face anger from party activists and donors if he is viewed as caving to the GOP.

Obama today

Along with his meeting with Boehner and other congressional leaders, Obama will meet and have lunch with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

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