The people who work for President Obama say that he has what it takes to make deals with congressional Republicans on economic issues in his last two years in office. The problem is that the plan sounds a lot like the one that has led to gridlock for the past few years.
Senior administration officials said Thursday that Mr. Obama will keep pushing Congress to replace automatic, across-the-board spending cuts with a “balanced” deficit-reduction plan, pass a broad corporate tax overhaul, start a major infrastructure spending initiative, and approve a number of trade agreements.
One official said of the tax, infrastructure, and trade measures, “These are areas where both parties tend to agree.” If Mr. Obama and Congress “have a moment of productivity,” these are the kinds of laws I think could be passed with support from both parties.
The official suggested that this is true whether or not Democrats keep control of the Senate. He or she also said, “We’re optimistic” that Mr. Obama’s party will keep the majority.
“You’ll see the president pushing the same basic set of ideas,” said a second official, who, like the others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about White House strategy.
It’s not clear that Republicans, who have fought almost every part of the president’s economic plan so far, will change their minds and join him.
Consider tax reform. Obama and some Republicans agree on some parts of a plan to change the way corporations pay taxes, such as lowering the rate from 35% to somewhere in the high 20% and using some of the extra money to improve infrastructure. But they disagree a lot about other important things, like whether the plan should bring in more money in the long run and whether or not it should come with tax cuts for individuals.
“You’re not going to have tax reform,” the second official said, if Republicans stick to their demand that corporate tax cuts and individual tax cuts happen at the same time.
No matter what happens in the midterm elections next month, Mr. Obama’s ability to work with Congress on economic issues will be put to the test next spring by a set of fiscal deadlines. That’s when lawmakers will have to raise the legal limit on how much the government can borrow, reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund, and possibly come to an agreement to keep the government running for the rest of 2015.
While Mr. Obama’s advisers say that the “fiscal drama” that has surrounded past budget deadlines has hurt the economy, their plan to avoid what one of them called “manufactured crises coming out of D.C.” is to cross their fingers.
One adviser said, “I hope Congress has learned that lesson, and I’d be worried if they haven’t.”