White House Plans Debt Limit Meetings with All House Members

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  ABC News has learned the President has invited all 432 sitting members of the House of Representatives to the White House next week.

House Republicans will head to the White House on Wednesday; House Democrats on Thursday.

A House Democratic source says the subject of the meeting is the budget.  A Republican source says there is no set topic.

The timing of the meetings is also interesting considering the House will next week have what’s being criticized the by the Left as “show vote” on a debt limit increase that features no cuts to federal spending.

Top House Republicans like Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy maintain that not a single Republican would vote to increase the debt ceiling without significant cuts. This measure on the floor next week won’t have any cuts, just an increase to the ceiling, and is destined to fail in the House.

On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner reiterated the GOP’s position that any increase to the debt ceiling must be accompanied by a greater total of cuts.

“I hope [the deficit talks being led behind closed doors by Vice President Joe Biden] continue, but I think I made our position very clear in my speech in New York when I said that the spending cuts should exceed the amount of an increase in the debt limit,” Boehner said. “And when I said exceed, I meant exceed.”

The meetings at the White House next week with the House GOP Conference and House Democratic Caucus follow meetings the President held with Senate Democrats on May 11 and Senate Republicans on May 12 at the White House earlier this month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Texas Gov. Rick Perry to Consider Presidential Run, Texas) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he will consider running for president in 2012, a stark reversal for Perry after months of claiming he wasn’t interested.

The governor told reporters at a ceremonial bill signing in Austin Friday that he’d “think about it” after the Texas legislative session is over.

“But, I think about a lot of things,” he quickly added.

What’s changed for the longest serving governor in Texas history?  “The Lt. Governor has been a really great supporter, he thinks it would be a great idea if I would resign and run for president,” Perry joked.

Perry’s spokesman attempted to cool down suggestions that he is indeed getting more serious about a presidential bid.

“Nothing has changed,” Mark Miner told ABC News on Friday. “The governor thinks about a lot of issues and has no intention of running for president.”

Speculation surrounding a possible run by the Texas Republican has increased over the past couple of weeks, especially after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced he won’t be seeking a White House bid.   Last week, Rush Limbaugh was discussing the current GOP field for 2012 and said on his radio show that Perry “has the potential to light this up.”

The Texas Legislature adjourns on Monday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Cornel West a Bellwether for Obama on Liberal Support in 2012?

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Prominent liberal activist and African-American author-professor Cornel West is not one to mince words: He thinks the country’s first black president -- a man for whom he campaigned vigorously in 2008 -- is not fit for reelection in 2012.  

In an interview last week with TruthDig, West had scathing words for President Obama, calling him “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

West, who is known for making incendiary remarks, says he has been personally and politically betrayed by Obama.  And he’s not alone.

A star-studded list of progressives has been airing disappointment in the president in the past few months for what they say is his failure to deliver on promises to the left-wing base.

The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who publicly challenged Obama on his agenda in an appearance on his show, suggested earlier this month that he might consider voting for someone else in 2012.

"I don't know if my expectations were fair," Stewart told Fox’s Bill O’Rielly. "I believed we lived in a more transformative time... I think he had an opportunity more in the Reagan mold to be a bully-pulpit president."

Actor Matt Damon aired similar misgivings in March about Obama, telling CNN, “I no longer hope for audacity.”

Singer Barbra Streisand has decried Obama’s extension of the Bush tax cuts as “not fair to working people in America,” and actor Robert Redford complained last summer that Obama was not being a “bold and visionary leader.”

Even outspoken Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois has said he might not support the president in 2012 because of the president’s inaction on immigration reform.

But do these high-profile criticisms mean Obama faces a broad erosion of  support among liberals ahead of the 2012 campaign?  Indications are the answer is no.     

“It’s a sign Obama is doing things in a way that will probably get him reelected,” Vanderbilt University political scientist John Geer said.  “If he was making the left happy, he’d lose, because this country is not super liberal, it’s moderate-conservative. … Obama has been tacking to the center with great effectiveness and part of the reason why I think he’s in a strong position for ‘12.”

The latest Gallup weekly tracking poll shows Obama holds 81 percent approval among liberals, the highest level in the past month.  Among self-identified “liberal Democrats,” the president’s approval is even higher, an impressive 90 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Romney Supports Ethanol Subsidies, Opposes Pawlenty's 'Hard Truth'

James Devaney/WireImage(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are at odds on one of the biggest issues to voters in Iowa, home of the nation’s first presidential caucuses.

Ethanol -- and government subsidies for it -- are historically a sacred cow in the Hawkeye state.

Earlier this week Pawlenty -- as part of his campaign based on telling “hard truths” -- said in Des Moines that it is time to start phasing out ethanol subsidies.

“We need to phase out subsidies across all sources of energy and all industries, including ethanol,” Pawlenty said. “We simply can't afford them anymore. Some people will be upset by what I'm saying. Conventional wisdom says you can't talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street. But someone has to say it. Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people. Someone has to lead -- I will.”

The former Minnesota governor’s stance surprised some, but for the most part it won praise from conservatives. One GOP operative applauded for Pawlenty for “a really gutsy move.”

But Romney, in his first trip to Iowa Friday, took an opposing point of view.

Bombarded with questions following his talk at the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Presidential Forum Speaker Series, the former Massachusetts governor told the gaggle of press and fans Friday that he supports the production of ethanol.

“I support the subsidy of ethanol,” said Romney, working his way through the Des Moines crowd, where he shook hands and doled out autographs. “I believe it’s an important part of our energy solution in this country.”

The ethanol debate is likely to be the first of many opposing policies the two GOP presidential hopefuls will have as they battle for the nomination.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Would Michele Bachmann Challenge Sarah Palin?

Bachman.House.Gov(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- It would be a match-up pitting two dynamic conservative women who appeal directly to evangelicals and the Tea Party faithful:  Sarah Palin vs. Michele Bachmann in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

ABC News' Jon Karl caught up with Bachmann and asked her about the prospect of running against Palin. Here's the exchange:

Karl: Would you run against Sarah Palin?

Bachmann: I love Sarah Palin. I love her.  She is a wonderful individual.  I'm privileged to get to know her and she is a lovely individual. My decision will be based on whether or not I think I need to run. I wouldn't see myself as running against a Republican competitor. What I would see myself as running as the nominee against President Obama. That's where I see the matchup. My quarrel is not with other Republicans.

Karl: If Palin runs, does that make it any less likely for you to run?  A lot of people say you occupy the same space --

Bachmann: My decision would be based upon what I believe is the right thing to do. If I think that I'm the one who should be the person to match up against President Obama, that's what the decision would be based on.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


McConnell: Medicare Has to Be Part of Deficit Reduction Deal

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate's top Republican Mitch McConnell on Friday said he would not vote for any eventual deficit reduction deal if it does not address Medicare, and he shrugged off the GOP's defeat earlier this week in the NY-26 special election.

"I think that we will have done something significant to alter the trajectory long-term on Medicare well before the elections. So we don't know what the issues are going to be in next year's elections. It’s a year and a half from now," McConnell said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

"I think that drawing a whole lot of conclusions about a three-way race in New York a year and a half before the election is -- I don't want to put you down there -- but it's kind of foolish," he told a reporter a few minutes later. "A lot will have happened between now and the fall of 2012."

McConnell, who warned that he will not vote for any debt reduction deal that fails to address Medicare, hit out at Democrats for failing to unveil a budget plan that addresses entitlement programs.

"When do they plan to step up and help us deal with the most predictable crisis in history?" he asked.

To bolster his case, McConnell quoted former President Bill Clinton a whopping five times in Friday's press conference, pointing out that Clinton said neither party should use the NY-26 election to conclude that they should not make any changes to Medicare.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rolling Thunder Riders Praise Sarah Palin's Participation in Rally

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For the riders of Rolling Thunder, the news that Sarah Palin will participate in their national rally on Sunday came as a welcome surprise.

"I think that’s wonderful," said Gerri Tramel, president of one of Rolling Thunder's Tennessee chapters. "Anybody that's involved -- Republican, Democrat, Independent, whatever -- if you're involved with our veterans, I think that's wonderful. Not just Sarah Palin -- anyone that's a politician."

For more than 20 years, as many as half a million motorcycle riders from across the country have descended on Washington, D.C., during Memorial Day weekend to raise awareness about prisoners of war and those missing in action. Rolling Thunder announced Thursday that Palin accepted an invitation to participate in its May 29 rally. She'll kick off her One Nation Tour the same day, a bus trip along the northeast coast that aims "to educate and energize Americans about our nation's founding principles."

"If she wants to support the troops, we're all for it," said Greg Benson, president of Rhode Island's Rolling Thunder chapter.

"I certainly welcome any positive publicity surrounding our cause, anything to bring attention to POWs and MIAs," said Jeffrey Stewart, who leads a Rolling Thunder chapter in New Hampshire, a state that will be crucial to Palin if she runs in 2012. "Whether it's a celebrity or a politician-celebrity -- I'm not exactly sure what she is right now -- having Sarah Palin there means more people will be paying attention to our cause."

But there are riders who worry that Palin’s presence might take away from the aim of the event.

"I don't know if she's using the veterans or the amount of people there for a political gain," said Susan Bailey, whose husband, Winston Bailey, is the president of an Ohio chapter of Rolling Thunder.

"As far as her running again, I don't know, she seems kind of wishy-washy, quitting the government," Bailey said, referring to Palin's curtailed gubernatorial stint in Alaska. "Whether she's really committed to it is my question."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Autopen Controversy: Should Presidents Use It to Sign Bills? -- With the Patriot Act set to expire Thursday night, President Obama signed legislation extending it -- from France. How did he do that? Using an autopen, of course.

Article 1, section 7 of the United States Constitution states: "Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it..."

It needs to be "presented" to him, and if he approves it "he shall sign it."

"Failure to sign this legislation posed a significant risk to U.S. national security," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said. "The president directed the use of the autopen to sign it."

Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., wrote to the president Friday questioning whether an autopen is good enough. To reporters, Graves said the autopen move set a "dangerous precedent." What if the president is hospitalized and not fully alert, he asked. "Can a group of aggressive Cabinet members interpret a wink or a squeeze of the hand as approval of an autopen signing?"

The Senate's top Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was asked at a press conference if he thought that the use of the autopen would pass legal muster.

"I think that's a better question addressed to them," McConnell said. "They did the research and their lawyers apparently advised them that this was permissible. I haven't looked at the legality of it and therefore don’t have an opinion to express on it."

In 2005, President George W. Bush was told by his Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice that he could use an autopen given "the legal understanding of the word 'sign' at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified and during the early years of the Republic. We find that, pursuant to this understanding, a person may sign a document by directing that his signature be affixed to it by another."

This, the OLC found, was supported by opinions of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice "addressing statutory signing requirements in a variety of contexts. Reading the constitutional text in light of this established legal understanding, we conclude that the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it within the meaning of Article I, Section 7...We emphasize that we are not suggesting that the President may delegate the decision to approve and sign a bill, only that, having made this decision, he may direct a subordinate to affix the President's signature to the bill."

Former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer says President Bush's White House did solicit the opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel in 2005 about the use of the autopen to sign legislation but he never used it.

"When necessary, the actual bills were flown to him accompanied by someone from the staff secretary's office for his live signature," Fleischer recalls. "Thought was given to using the autopen on a 'minor' piece of legislation to establish a precedent in case there was ever a legal challenge.  However, it was never done."

Fleischer says, "I think the Obama Administration is on solid ground, but they are taking somewhat of a risk that the autopen will be challenged in court. Using it for the first time on major legislation carries some risk." He adds that he "love(s) the irony of the Obama White House now following Bush's OLC opinions, but that's a different matter."

In 2004, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was criticized for using an autopen to sign condolence letters to the families of fallen troops.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Military Industrial: Should Pentagon Budget Be Cut?

US Dept of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- Defense accounts for the largest chunk of U.S. federal spending. Of all the money that Congress controls each year, nearly a quarter goes towards the Pentagon and defense spending.

As Congress mulls budget cuts, defense spending is coming increasingly under scrutiny and threatens to become another explosive topic that could divide Republicans as the 2012 race heats up.

Members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle have ramped up pressure on the Pentagon to find ways to trim its budget amid growing concern about the rising deficit.  House Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly said that "there is no part of this government that should be sacred" and that there's room in the Defense Department's budget to "find savings."

President Obama has proposed cutting $400 billion through the 2023 fiscal year in security spending, more than double what his Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed.

Gates ordered a budget review last week but offered few specifics on what would be cut.  Rather, the outgoing secretary has talked more about what should be off the chopping block, such as expensive fighter jets and aircraft for the Air Force, new ships for the Navy and ground forces in various parts of the world.

The cost of owning and operating the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet would top $1 trillion over more than 50 years, including an additional $385 billion to purchase 2,500 of the stealthy planes through 2035, according to a report published in the Wall Street Journal.

Proponents of keeping the defense budget steady say neither Gates' amount nor Obama's figure of $400 billion will have any real impact on the deficit, and that it's "penny-wise and pound foolish."

Despite all the rhetoric about finding savings in the defense budget, it's a politically sensitive issue that few want to touch.

Even Obama has done little on this front except to lay a rough and mostly vague outline for future cuts.  In fact, his budget for 2012 proposed $553 billion for the Defense Department's base budget, an increase of $22 billion over the 2010 budget.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Republicans Showing Little Appetite for 2012 Election

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans who flirted with running for president in 2012 -- and decided not to try -- showed little appetite for the relentless demands and punishing grind of a campaign.  Their candid characterizations now make one wonder who would.     

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran an insurgent campaign in 2008 and had led in many 2012 pre-primary polls, said he wasn't ready to be pushed "to the limit of his...human capacity."  

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who lamented he couldn't resolve family "considerations," said a campaign is "not a mountain you jump off of by yourself."

And Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour eschewed the "all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," of a campaign -- which his wife, Marsha, said "horrifies" her.

"It takes your whole life.  It takes everything you know and everything you've got," said Richard Ben Cramer, author of What It Takes: The Way to the White House, of being a presidential candidate.   "And they can never go back to what they called their life because the campaign changes them," he said.

So what type of person takes the presidential plunge anyway? 

Someone with an insatiable hunger for the "number one job in the world," Cramer said.  

Research shows presidential candidates also share an above-average desire for power. 

"They like the idea of exerting influence both on reality itself and other individuals," said Chris Federico, director of the Center for Political Psychology at the University of Minnesota. 

They have a "need for achievement, a need to achieve excellence in some realm," he said.  "And some are after affiliation, to have connections with other people."

Ultimately, experts say, the decision of whether or not to run for the White House -- at once deeply personal and strategic -- boils down to what candidates and pundits describe as a gut feeling, a "fire in the belly."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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