The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 5, 2013

The summer question: Can Washington govern?


Obama's inaugural address was notable for the progressive agenda he outlined and his obvious impatience with united Republican opposition. Since then, he has repeatedly said he is eager to work with Republicans who are willing to work with him and that he and they should both be willing to compromise.

The president's latest tactical move came Friday, with reports — the first in The New York Times — that Obama will offer Congress a fiscal blueprint that includes cuts in future spending on Medicare and Social Security. It is a budget designed to satisfy neither congressional Republicans nor his party's left flank.

White House officials, who described the outlines of the package to reporters, heralded the budget as a signal to Republicans that Obama is serious about making concessions in order to produce the fiscal grand bargain that has eluded him for two years.

Obama's willingness to cut the two big entitlements programs dates back to his negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, over the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011. At the time, he persuaded House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to accept cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and White House officials long have claimed that the two leaders agreed to help rally their colleagues to accept them as part of a grand bargain.

So Obama's budget offer does not represent a dramatic breakthrough or even a fresh start. It is a small but perhaps symbolically important gesture. For the first time he is willing to put in writing what he has told Republicans in private negotiations, which is that he is prepared to cut both Medicare and Social Security as part of a compromise aimed at putting the country's fiscal house in order. But, and only but, as part of a deal that includes more new revenues.

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