WASHINGTON (CNN) - In the heat of the political debate over the debt ceiling last week, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) may have crossed the line when he said that being associated with President Obama would be similar to touching a “tar baby”.
“Even if some people say, well the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that, they will hold the President responsible,” said Lamborn said Friday during an interview on a Denver radio station. “Now I don’t want to even have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get, you get it, you know… you are stuck and you are part of the problem now and you can’t get away.”
Now critics are questioning his use of that term and are calling it highly offensive to the president.
The term “tar baby” is a reference to 19th-century Uncle Remus stories about Br’er Rabbit but has taken on a negative connotation towards African-Americans.
Lamborn spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said the comments were a misunderstanding and he apologizes.
“Congressman Lamborn regrets any misunderstanding. He simply meant to refer to a sticky situation or quagmire,” she said.
The Republican congressman is not the first to run into trouble with the phrase. Mitt Romney referred to the Big Dig construction project in Boston as a "tar baby" in 2006 during a fundraiser on the campaign trail. And Sen. John McCain also used the term during his campaign for president. Both men apologized.
The White House has not given any comment on Rep. Lamborn's remarks.
Here is more information from Democrats familiar with today’s closed-door House meeting, with Vice President Biden.
The Vice President said the 14th amendment was NOT an option for the President. Context: Rep. DeFazio (D-OR) wanted to know why the President didn’t just use the 14th amendment. The VP explained the President had his legal scholars look into it and decided it was not appropriate. We’ve previously been advised that VP Biden consulted with the White House counsel’s office about options – including whether the 14th amendment could be invoked. He chaired the Judiciary Committee when he was in the Senate so is probably familiar with the issues.
On reports that the VP called tea party lawmakers “terrorists”: Multiple Democratic sources say the VP was listening to angry Democrats vent about Republicans who said they “negotiate like terrorists” “how can you negotiate with hostage takers” and that they “feel pick pocketed”. As they vented the VP said “well now we’ve taken away their weapons of mass destruction,” meaning the Republicans can’t use the debt ceiling as leverage with Democrats in the future. In an interview with CBS' Scott Pelley the Vice President denied he compared tea party linked lawmakers to terrorists.
Kendra Barkoff, the Vice President's Press Secretary, responded to the accusations: “The word was used by several members of Congress. The Vice President does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse.”
A day after the White House and Congress announced a late night compromise to avert the United States going into default, Vice President Joe Biden headed to the Hill to win over Democratic votes. Press Secretary Jay Carney fielded questions at Monday’s White House briefing:
Question: [What is the message] for liberal Democrats who are saying...that the president gave up too much in this agreement?
"...the deal negotiated with leaders of Congress is a victory for the American people. This agreement ensures that the debt ceiling will be extended through 2012, removing that cloud of uncertainty from the economy.
[T]he agreement ensures that there is an initial round of spending cuts that protect vital investments, that will ensure that the economy can continue to grow, protect vital things like Pell Grants, that are a high priority for the president, and, significantly, ensure that there's a fire wall in the discretionary spending cuts between defense and non-defense spending which, again, is a kind of protection we haven't seen in a long time that is essential to making this a fair and balanced deal.
[T]here is a committee set up... that will be bicameral and bipartisan, with equal representation between Republicans and Democrats. And that committee will be charged with finding ways to ensure - finding ways to reduce the deficit even further - $1.5 trillion further.
And everything is on the table for that committee, everything including both entitlement reform and tax reform."
Question: [W]hat's the message to Democrats who see this as a capitulation, who see it as a bill that reflects more of the Republican priorities than the Democratic priorities?
"It is not a perfect agreement. It is not the one that the president or Democrats would have crafted if only they controlled all levers of government themselves, obviously. But it does accomplish some significant things..." FULL POST
Perhaps not surprisingly, there's a disagreement between the White House and Republicans on the likelihood that the deficit reduction committee will tackle tax reform.
The politics of these positions should be fairly clear: ahead of these uncertain votes, Republicans want to reassure members that taxes aren't really on the table; Democrats want to reassure members they are.
What's behind the spin....
There's no disagreement on this point: the Committee can take up tax reform if it chooses to. The dispute is whether the deal is structured in a way that motivates the committee to do it. Keep in mind the Committee's product - if it passes Congress - would take effect January 2013, just when the Bush Tax Cuts expire.
President Obama Monday is marking the beginning of Ramadan, the month-long Muslim holiday of fasting and reflection.
In a statement issued by the White House, the president said, "Times like this remind us of the lesson of all great faiths, including Islam - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us."
He also said he will be hosting an iftar dinner at the White House, an event he hosted last year as well.
Obama's full statement:
President Obama is dispatching his chief vote whipper to the Hill Monday ahead of both chambers' vote on the debt deal.
Biden will meet with the Senate eDemocratic caucus at 11 a.m. ET and and the House Democratic Caucus at 12:0O p.m. ET.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall...
Compromise is the word of the day at the White House, especially as some Democrats are publicly expressing disapproval of the deal struck over the weekend
The White House dispatched the president’s top economic adviser to make the TV rounds Monday, in part an effort to calm nerves from several Democrats that Republicans got the better of the deal.
Gene Sperling, the chief White House Economic Adviser, had this to say:
As the president said many times, we have divided government. We had the responsibility to make sure that didn't mean dysfunctional government that ended up hurting our economy. This is a compromise. . . This makes sure that a good amount of that deficit reduction comes from security and defense spending, so there's more shared sacrifice in how we're cutting spending. It helps protect college scholarships for people who are . . . on Pell grants.
Sterling also suggested tax revenues could come from the upcoming special committee’s recommendations this fall, a sentiment the president agreed with in his statement.
When you have an incentive that makes both sides have to come to the table, this president believes very strongly that the American people will side with him that the type of big deficit reduction we should do should not put all of the burden on seniors or students or working families as some of the republican plans would like to do, but does require shared sacrifice and that means tax reform that asks the corporate tax expenditures, those most well off to be part of the solution and this president will insist on that. He did not give up anything in that goal of shared sacrifice in this package.
In the second stage of the deal, a special joint committee of Congress will recommend further deficit reduction steps totaling $1.5 trillion or more by the end of November, with Congress obligated to vote on the panel's proposals by the end of the year.
After making an appearance in the briefing room Sunday to announce a debt deal compromise, the president is expected to keep a low profile Monday with no public events planned.
After receiving the usual daily briefing at 9:30 a.m., the president will meet with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke followed by a meeting with senior advisers.
Of course, the real drama will be on Capitol Hill Monday, where both houses still have to approve the debt deal Obama says the leaders have agreed to. The president clearly prefers to stay in the background until leaders on both sides can secure enough votes to ensure the deals passing. Of course, it’s likely Obama will do some arm-twisting himself of a few wary Democrats who may be on the fence over voting for this plan.