No safe bets for Obama despite upcoming agenda

By Josh Lederman

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 18 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

In exchange for entitlement cuts, Reid said, Republicans would have to agree to higher taxes — setting up an eerily familiar ideological clash between the two parties now charged with reaching consensus on a budget. Republicans will face intense pressure in their districts not to raise taxes, while Democrats will press Obama not to chip away at the nation's safety net.

"If he buys into the idea that cutting Social Security benefits or cutting Medicare benefits is going to improve the economy, that's a disaster for him and it's a disaster for his party," said Roger Hickey, co-director of the liberal advocacy group Campaign for America's Future.

Republicans are smarting from a failed strategy that exposed deep GOP divisions, potentially giving Obama a temporary upper hand.

Further complicating the chances for any legislative successes this year is the poisoned atmosphere created by the recent fiscal standoff. House Republicans in particular bristled at Obama's refusal to negotiate on the debt ceiling and at his belittling view of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"This recent fight has spoiled the opportunity for getting anything major done by the rest of the year," said Ron Bonjean, a former top House and Senate Republican leadership aide. "There are a lot of hard feelings."

But at least publicly, both sides are downplaying the notion that bad blood will preclude important deals in the weeks to come.

"If your punditry suggests finding big agreements is hindered by a bad relationship" between Obama and Boehner, "you're doing it wrong," Boehner's spokesman, Brendan Buck, wrote Friday on Twitter.

"Agree," Carney replied.

Follow Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP and Jim Kuhnhenn at http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn

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