New Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was in Jackson Tuesday afternoon visiting with Gov. Haley Barbour and other party VIPs.
He held a short press conference with Barbour, who was once RNC chair, at the state GOP headquarters. In his opening remarks, Priebus wasted no time in revealing what he thinks is at stake in the latest political fight between Republicans and Democrats.
“I believe we’re in a battle for freedom, and Republicans are leading the way,” he said of the budget brawl in which congressional GOP leadership have engaged President Obama.
The continuing resolution that is currently funding the federal government expires March 4, but Priebus wouldn’t speculate on the possibility of a government shutdown should no extension or long-term funding agreement be reached before then.
“The only people talking about a shutdown are the Democrats,” he said.
Priebus spent about nine minutes of the 10-minute press conference discussing the federal funding situation and the awful mess in his home state of Wisconsin over the collective bargaining rights of public workers, and the political holy war that has broken out between unions and Gov. Scott Walker.
“All (Walker is) asking for is just a little bit of help from the state employee unions to pay 12 percent on their healthcare benefits and 5 percent on their pension benefits, which is half of what everyone else is Wisconsin is doing,” Priebus said.
Priebus was a little less verbose when he was asked to lay odds on Barbour’s chances in 2012.
“I look up to and admire Gov. Barbour, but at the end of the day we’re going to have a lot of great (GOP) candidates,” he said. “Whether it’s Gov. Barbour or another candidate, we’ll have a lot of great choices.”
The only real news came when Barbour said he had not had a chance to read either of the two major bills to clear the Legislature recently — the payday lending legislation and the open meetings reform bill. Without giving them a once-over, Barbour said, he couldn’t commit to signing them or not signing them.