Political landscape changes with improving economy, but scandals offer room for new attacks
Part of the deficit decline comes from the higher tax rates that went into effect this year and from improving corporate profits. But some is due to temporary events such as bailout paybacks by government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and higher tax payments from wealthy people and corporations shifting income into 2012 to avoid paying higher 2013 taxes. Also, U.S. borrowing costs are at historic lows.
For now, the three controversies plaguing the administration are consuming most of the political oxygen in Washington.
"Congress basically can't walk and chew gum at the same time, so they'll focus on these scandal things for a while longer," said veteran budget analyst Stanley Collender.
With annual deficits shrinking, Republicans are more likely to focus more on the $16 trillion national debt, which is still going up, instead of deficits, which are going down, Collender said.
The declining deficit also means that another knock-down partisan fight in Congress over raising the government's borrowing limit now won't happen until October or November instead of early summer as originally envisioned.
The present dynamic, with Obama and his Democratic allies forced onto defense in three separate matters, is not lost on Republican leaders hoping to pick up seats in the House and regain control of the Senate next year.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, opened a news conference Thursday by asserting that "jobs continue to be our No. 1 priority" before he quickly moved to "the IRS scandal" and other alleged administration improprieties.
The matters now being investigated by multiple congressional committee "all feed and fuel the narrative of government intrusiveness and a government that is too large," said Thomas E. Cronin, a presidential historian at Colorado College.
"To some extent, the Obama administration has accidentally given Republicans a whole new line of attack," Cronin said.
Follow Tom Raum on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum
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