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January 18, 2014

Fiscal fatigue grabs capital as Obama preps speech

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

The volume of the rhetoric may be lowered a bit, for now, but it’s not clear how long the pause will last.

“The Republicans certainly didn’t want to put themselves in the position they did with respect to the government shutdown,” said Thomas E. Mann a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution. “And the (Ryan-Murray) agreement was important in terms of setting budget ceilings for two years and giving a fighting shot at getting appropriations bills for next year done. But I don’t think that stretches or moves on to other things.”

“The differences are still stark,” he said.

The two parties, for instance, are squabbling now over Obama’s request to Congress to temporarily restore extended unemployment benefits for about 1.4 million longer-term unemployed workers who lost them when the program expired on Dec. 28. And another battle to raise the nation’s borrowing authority — when the current debt limit debt is reached, probably sometime in March — also looms.

Rich Galen, a GOP consultant and former top aide to Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, suggests the now-raging controversy over the rocky health-insurance rollout is transitory and likely to fade with time. “Remember, in 2000 it took us 36 days to find out who the president was,” he said, referring to the razor close victory of Republican George W. Bush over Democratic Vice President Al Gore.

“Certainly during the shutdown Republicans got very poor publicity and it shows in the polls,” said James Thurber, a former congressional legislative assistant who has advised Obama on ethics and lobbying rules.

But during the health care rollout “Democrats lost momentum,” said Thurber, currently director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University.

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Follow Tom Raum on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum

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