IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Congress back to tackle credit cards, health

As lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week, hammering out details of the budget passed before the spring break is at the top of the agenda.
Emanuel Banks
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel predicts Congress will make progress on proposals for controlling health care costs and providing incentives for healthy lifestyles.Fred Watkins / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

As lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week, hammering out details of the budget passed before the spring break is at the top of the agenda.

On Sunday Republicans continued to warn that President Barack Obama's spending plan is a "disaster" for the country, even though the federal income tax burden is at a historic low, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

"People need to be upset," Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday, expressing his support for last week's tea party protests against government spending. "This is a complete, absolute abandonment of fiscal discipline, and the Obama budget is a road map for disaster that will bankrupt this country. ... This is not the change people were hoping for. This is unbelievable growth in government at a time we can afford it the least."

Obama wanted Republicans to return to Congress from their spring recess with a more constructive attitude toward health care, energy and other administration initiatives. GOP lawmakers say they have ideas, just not the ones the president may want.

Areas of common interest
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said it remains to be seen whether the president's budget proposal would gain any GOP support in Congress.

"No one expects the Republican Party to fully embrace what we're doing," Axelrod said. "What they would like is for us to ratify the policies that we've had for the last eight years that have gotten us into the mess we're in. We have two parties for a reason, but there are areas of common interest, and we ought to pursue them."

Access to high-quality, affordable health insurance is a goal Democrats and Republican share, said House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio. Lawmakers differ, however, on how to reach that goal.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel predicted congressional committees would make progress on changing the health care system, particularly on proposals for controlling costs and providing incentives for healthy lifestyles. Obama will not consider proposals to tax employer benefits before those and other problems are addressed, Emanuel said, and perhaps not even then.

Questioning climate change
On energy, Boehner said Republicans continue to favor the comprehensive strategy that includes more nuclear energy and more domestic oil drilling that they pushed last year. He dismissed concerns about carbon dioxide as "almost comical," and questioned man's role in climate change and what should be done about global warming.

"And so we've got to find ways to work toward this solution to this problem without risking the future for our kids and grandkids," he said.

Emanuel predicted that by the end of the first year of the new Congress the president would have an energy bill, though he would not say whether the cap-and-trade proposal to stem climate change would be part of it.

The House and Senate are considering a credit card bill of rights to limit the ability of credit card companies to raise interest rates on existing balances and to require greater disclosure. White House economic adviser Larry Summers said people need to save more, but that the government also needs to curb credit card pitches that addict people to plastic.

Emanuel and Boehner appeared on ABC's "This Week" while Axelrod spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation." Graham's interview was on "FOX News Sunday," and Summers appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press."