Home alone - to save the underdog (Washington Newsletter)

December 25th, 2011 - 5:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, Dec 25 (IANS) The president was home alone for a whole week with only family dog Bo to keep him company. The first lady and the girls had flown to Hawaii for a sun and sand holiday on the beach.

And here was Barack Obama, the most powerful person on earth, picking up doggy poop and taking Bo shopping to buy some treats for the Portuguese water dog as he waited for the Congress to clear up the mess that had kept him home.

But he had work to do. He was on a mission to save the underdog middle class whose taxes were bound to go up in the New Year without a deal-and also hopefully stay as the top dog for another four years.

Obama, who had been there done that before, four times this year alone, had vowed to stay put until lawmakers agreed to extend the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits in these tough times.

As his family flew off to Hawaii, he had hoped to join them soon as a deal was on the horizon with lawmakers on both sides of the political divide, his Democrats as also opposition Republicans, equally keen to begin their own holiday.

The Senate acted first passing a bill with an overwhelming 89-10 vote on a Saturday to extend the payroll tax cuts for two months giving Obama barely enough time to decide whether to allow construction of the controversial 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Left to him, Obama would have loved to decide on the pipeline, which union leaders back but environmentalists oppose, only after the elections in November 2012. But he was willing to pay the small price keeping the bigger prize in sight - the Oval Office.

But no one had taken into account the 90 odd tea party freshman Republicans who had stormed the House last year propagating lower cuts spending cuts and fiscal discipline.

Buckling under their pressure, the Republican controlled House rejected the measure that only seven party men had opposed in the Senate.

It was a question of who would blink first. After talking tough for four days, House speaker John Boehner did as warnings came from within his own party about how badly it may hurt the party with leading Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, citing his own confrontation as speaker with then President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Finally, Obama again got almost all that he wanted. There was no government shutdown in February, no default on debt in August, no spending cuts this year or the next. And now the extension of payroll tax cuts.

To be sure, another dog fight to extend the cuts for the whole year loomed ahead as Obama flew off to Hawaii wishing everyone a politically correct “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,” but with the underdog saved, his own dog days seemed to be over.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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