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Phoning It In

- March 29, 2011

Much Like Obama Himself, The President’s “Point Man” On The Budget Has Been A Lackluster Participant In Negotiations To Avert A Shutdown

AFTER OBAMA PUNTED THE BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS TO BIDEN, THE VICE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN A “SEMI-COMICAL” DETACHED NEGOTIATOR

Obama Punted Responsibility For The Budget To Biden. "President Obama on Wednesday tapped Mr. Biden, his 'sheriff' on the stimulus, to lead negotiations with Congress, though Mr. Biden already had a prearranged trip scheduled to visit Finland, Russia and Moldova next week." (Stephen Dinan, "Biden Leaving In Middle Of Budget Talks," The Washington Times' "Inside Politics" Blog, 3/4/11)

Yet “[D]espite Being Anointed The Point Man On The Budget By President Obama In Early March, Biden Hasn’t Played A Major Role In The Negotiations, Instead Waiting Until Staff-Level Discussions Near An End So He Can Come In To Finish Brokering A Deal.” (Matt Negrin, “Budget Team Confers With Biden,” Politico, 3/29/11)

“Vice President Joe Biden Stepped In Briefly To Fill The Breach But Has Been More A Voice On The Phone Than A Physical Presence.” (David Rogers, “Fiscal Cloud Still Hangs Over Congress,” Politico, 3/27/11)

“Instead Of Playing A Major Role In The Process, However, Biden Has Been Monitoring The Debate From A Distance — And Waiting For The Call To Send Him In As The Closer.” (Matt Negrin, “On Budget, Biden Plays Waiting Game,” Politico3/28/11)

Chief White House Budget Negotiator Vice President "Pursued A Semi-Comical" Effort To Seem Involved, Calling GOP Leaders From Russian President Medvedev's Dacha To Discuss The Budget. "At the same time, Vice President Joe Biden, delegated as a top budget negotiator by Obama, pursued a semi-comical second track: reaching out long distance to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's dacha." (Glenn Thrush and Carrie Budoff Brown, "W.H. Struggles To Lead On Spending," Politico, 3/9/11)

LEAVING DEMOCRATS WONDERING “WHO’S IN CHARGE?” 

“Democrats In Congress Are Grappling With A Question As They Negotiate A Spending Deal: Who's In Charge?” (Jonathan Allen, “Democrats Wonder: What’s Our Plan?,” Politico, 3/17/11) 

“Given The Personal Nature Of This Attack, It Baffles Lawmakers That The President Has Kept Himself So Removed From The Fight. Republicans Had Hoped That By Challenging Obama Directly, He Would Engage Sooner On A Larger Budget Deal. Liberal Democrats Are So Convinced They Are Being Sold Out That They Now Talk Longingly Of The Man Who Popularized Triangulation: Bill Clinton.”  (David Rogers, “Fiscal Cloud Still Hangs Over Congress,” Politico, 3/27/11)

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY): “The Sum And Substance Of Our Strategy Can’t Be Waiting For The Other Side To [Mess] Up.” (Jonathan Allen, “Democrats Wonder: What’s Our Plan?” Politico, 3/17/11) 

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) Questioned Obama's Decision To Defer To Biden On The Budget: "If He's The Chief Negotiator -- At Least That's What I Thought He Was Gonna Be -- And Then He Takes Off In The Middle Of This Debate, Then Where Does That Leave Us?" "Cuellar also questioned the appointment of Vice President Joe Biden to spearhead the bipartisan negotiations in search of a deal. Biden met with party leaders on Thursday, but left the country a few days later to meet with leaders in Russia and Finland. 'If he's the chief negotiator -- at least that's what I thought he was gonna be -- and then he takes off in the middle of this debate, then where does that leave us?' Cuellar asked." (Mike Lillis, "Cuellar Dem Leadership's Lone New Face," The Hill, 3/10/11)

  • Rep. Cuellar: "[I]t Would Be Nice If We Could Get A Little Bit Of Help From Our President" On The Budget. "On Wednesday, for instance, he went after the White House for taking a backseat throughout most of the budget-cut debate. Democrats, he said, are making progress highlighting the distinction in spending priorities between the two parties, 'but it would be nice if we could get a little bit of help from our president.'" (Mike Lillis, "Cuellar Dem Leadership's Lone New Face," The Hill, 3/10/11)

OBAMA’S ABSENCE FROM THE BUDGET DEBATE LEAVES DEMOCRATS RUDDERLESS AND INCREASES THE THREAT OF A SHUTDOWN

Drawing On Experience From Previous Budget Negotiations, Alice Rivlin And Pete Domenici Wrote In Politico: “Successful Budget Action Must Be Bipartisan And Must Involve The President.” “We have participated in most of the major fiscal policy agreements of the past 30 years, including some excruciating negotiations between presidents and Congresses. … We have learned at least four lessons from our long budget experience. First, successful budget action must be bipartisan and must involve the president.” (Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, “Stronger Rules Will Rein In Debt,” Politico, 3/28/11)

Democrats “Have No Idea Where The White House Stands Or Who’s Running The Show.” “Senate Democrats haven’t put forward a long-term spending plan that can move through their chamber, and Democrats on both sides of the Capitol say they have no idea where the White House stands or who’s running the show.” (Jonathan Allen, “Democrats Wonder: What’s Our Plan?,” Politico, 3/17/11)

"Senate Democrats Wonder If Or When The White House Will Take The Reins" On The Budget."Senate Democrats wonder if or when the White House will take the reins in a budget fight that has several of their vulnerable colleagues in a vise. Democrats suffered a setback Thursday when their proposal to cut spending this year won fewer votes on the Senate floor than a rival bill approved by the GOP House that proposed cutting far more. Democrats suffered 11 defections in the vote, while Republicans maintained more unity." (Shane D. Aprile, "Parting Ways: President's Path Is Diverging From Senate Dems," The Hill, 3/14/11)

The President's Priorities Are Out Of Sync With The Budget Debate On The Hill. "But the growing divide between Congress and the White House isn't simply about presidential involvement. Often, the president doesn't seem to be speaking the Hill's language. After the Senate deadlocked last week over how to cut billions from the budget, Obama on Monday called for a rewrite of the federal education law -- and made a full-throated pledge to shield education from the budget knife." (Carrie Budoff Brown, "President Obama Staying In Background On Deficits," Politico, 3/14/11)


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