Big decisions are looming for Obama

President Obama and congressional Democrats have launched a coordinated effort to divide Republicans on a variety of issues. 

They include legislation on student loans, domestic violence, a highway reauthorization and most recently, pay equity.

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On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accused Mitt Romney of being “afraid” of staking out a position on a bill that would expand a 1938 law to help women fight pay discrimination. 

“He should show some leadership, in my opinion … and tell his fellow Republicans that opposing fair pay for all Americans is shameful,” Reid said of Romney. “Instead, no one knows where he stands.”

There is no question that there is policy daylight between Romney and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. The 2012 presumptive presidential candidate is at odds with most congressional Republicans on Yucca Mountain, China currency and term limits for members.

Not surprisingly, Romney’s campaign this spring has tapped Republicans in both the House and Senate to coordinate their election-year messages.

But there are also policy differences between Obama and Democratic congressional leaders.

By and large, Democrats on Capitol Hill support extending the Bush tax rates to everyone earning less than $1 million a year. Obama, meanwhile, has pegged that number at $250,000, a figure that he championed on the 2008 campaign trail and throughout his three and a half years in the White House.

Organized labor and Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2-ranked Democrat in the upper chamber, strongly support the $250,000 threshold. Other Democratic leaders, however, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), have embraced the $1 million mark.

Will Obama shift positions over the next five months? There is some speculation that he will, but he could have opted to pivot when he put out his budget plan earlier this year. He didn’t.

If he moves from $250,000 to $1 million, it would be touted by Democrats as a compromise and a nod to small-business owners, who have balked at the lower level. 

Another decision looming for Obama and congressional Democrats deals with the nation’s debt ceiling. In 2011, Obama and Democratic leaders supported a “clean” hike to the debt ceiling before eventually agreeing to cuts of more than $1 trillion last summer.

The nation’s debt level will need to be lifted at the end of this year or early in 2013. Will Democrats once again push for a clean increase, or come up with a new negotiating position? 

One thing is certain: Both Republicans and Democrats will highlight any policy daylight on the other side of the aisle between now and Election Day.