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As House returns, GOP strategies reflect soul-searching

February 04, 2013|By Lisa Mascaro
  • House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, flanked by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, flanked by House Budget Committee Chairman… (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans appear intent on taking a good-cop, bad-cop approach to their 2013 legislative agenda, pushing ahead with the austere budgeting that has come to define the party, while also offering a more upbeat message that strategists have said could help broaden the party’s appeal to voters.

That two-pronged strategy was on display Monday.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized President Obama’s failure to produce a budget by Monday’s legal deadline, the top topic for the party this week. The House is set to vote on a largely symbolic measure Wednesday that would require the White House to approve a budget that balances within 10 years.

“Our economy could use some presidential leadership right now,” Boehner said in a rare floor speech as the chamber opened.

At the same time, the No. 2 Republican in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, was preparing to deliver his own address Tuesday that offered an upbeat assessment of how government can help Americans -- a speech titled “Making Life Work.”

“Our goal should be to eliminate the doubt gripping our nation’s families, and to restore their hope and confidence in being able to protect tomorrow for their children,” Cantor will say in his speech at the American Enterprise Institute, according to excerpts released by his office.

The different approaches show a party that continues its political soul searching after the fall electoral losses as Obama pushes ahead with his own second-term agenda.

Congress is on track to repeat the cycle of partisan stalemate and fiscal crisis that characterized the last session, particularly on the budget issues that have come to dominate Washington.

Republicans have little interest in Obama’s desire to find more tax revenue to control deficits, and pledge they will fight for deeper spending cuts. Their promise of a 10-year balanced budget, to be unveiled this spring, is an ambitious undertaking. Even the budget from Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), with its overhaul of Medicare and other safety net programs, did not balance for almost 20 years.

While many Republicans, particularly the conservative wing, are primed for this fight as they aim to slash spending to balance budgets, others would like to broaden the party’s message.

Obama is set to address Democrats in both the House and Senate at their private caucus retreats this week as they consider ways to extract more revenue by closing loopholes.

The White House has given little insight into why the president again missed the February deadline for presenting his budget, and Press Secretary Jay Carney declined Monday to say when the blueprint would be ready.

“The president hopes that he will be able to work together with Congress to achieve what's necessary here, which is removing the cloud of crisis, as he said yesterday, from the process of dealing with our finances in Washington,” Carney said. The White House is interested in “making responsible decisions based on compromise, based on balance, reflecting the will of the American people and the approach they want Washington to take, and ensuring that Washington doesn't inflict wounds on the economy.”

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

Twitter:@LisaMascaroinDC

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