One possible compromise in the end-of-the-year talks may involve Obama offering more modest entitlement changes in exchange for easing the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, echoing an idea floated by House Republicans during the shutdown.
The sequester is unpopular with both parties. But there is little consensus over how to offset the spending cuts, which are scheduled to intensify in mid-January, with the Pentagon bearing most of the cuts.
Democrats don’t appear to want to compromise over spending levels. Party leaders say they already gave in to Republicans by agreeing to let the GOP extend the current sequester levels through Jan. 15 as part of the short-term deal to end the shutdown.
White House officials say Obama has made clear to Democrats that no one will emerge from budget negotiations with everything on his wish list.
“He will not get in a budget negotiation everything he wants, and neither will Democrats and neither will Republicans,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Patrick Griffin, who served as legislative director for President Bill Clinton, said Obama’s challenge will be balancing an outcome that could help build bipartisan support for his other agenda items with the desires of Democrats facing re-election in 2014.
“What might be good for the president for his next three years might not be the same agenda that’s good for (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid and the caucus for the next year,” he said.
Before the shutdown and debt debate, it appeared as though the ties between the White House and Democrats were fraying. Liberal Democrats were angry over revelations that the White House was continuing government spying programs started under President George W. Bush. Many in the party opposed Obama’s call for possible military action in Syria following a chemical weapons attack. And several Democratic lawmakers revolted against Obama’s preferred choice to lead the Federal Reserve, forcing economist Lawrence Summers to withdraw his name from consideration even before he could be nominated.