We didn’t hear much about Rahm Emanuel when things were looking dicey and Obama had to fight for the stimulus bill, but now that there is a conference deal, Rahm would like his credit. Let’s see who’s jockeying for access in the new White House and obliging.
But it was probably a lucky break for the administration that Rahm Emanuel was also around to work the House. Obama’s chief of staff was the No. 4 man in the House Democratic leadership. If anyone could placate Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants who run the key committees, it was probably Emanuel. This week was the first big test.
If "placate" means engaging in a personal pissing contest to unload blame for the bill’s shortcomings on the House and dispatching minions to attack and undermine Pelosi, I guess you could say that.
Then we have The Hill:
And if anyone’s fingerprints are on the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus package being sorted out in Congress this week, they belong to Emanuel, the former Illinois House member who is now the White House chief of staff.
There he was on the morning before the House stimulus vote, bringing Blue Dogs back into the fold as he huddled with their leaders in House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) hideaway off the House floor.
Enough Blue Dogs were wooed over to vote for the bill, per The Hill’s own reporting at the time, by a letter from Obama’s director Peter Orszag saying the White House would commit to pay-go budget principles for all non-emergency legislation going forward. Rahm is never mentioned in the article.
There he was Friday afternoon in the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), tossing spending programs overboard until the package was light enough to support the heavy doubts of three Republican senators.
Reid was trying to sell his own deal, reducing the tax cuts to $65 billion while Diane Feinstein was on the floor saying she wouldn’t vote for any bill that had too many tax cuts. Rahm cut their legs off.
Emanuel has returned to his old stomping grounds at each step of the process, cutting deals and holding hands to keep Democrats together and win enough Republican support to get the package through the Senate.
January 29: “Rahm hates us and lets us know it, and we hate him back,” said a senior Republican.
Pay close attention to this part, because if you think Rahm did a great job "tossing spending programs overboard" (like children’s nutrition), he’s just getting started:
The fiscally conservative Democrats might not have been able to defeat the bill, but a large chunk of Democrats defecting on the top priority of a new Democratic president would have heaped insult on the injury inflicted by the GOP’s wall of opposition. So they huddled in the majority leader’s hideaway, and Emanuel pledged that they would see signs of Obama’s commitment to fiscal reform.
That means Social Security and Medicare reform. Jim Cooper, a leader of the Blue Dogs, has a fetish about it. In December, Cooper received a promise that the administration would convene a "fiscal responsibility summit" in February to address it. Kagro: "I said Obama should have waited to see that Cooper and the Blue Dogs pony up on the stimulus before agreeing."
After that, 11 Democrats voted against the stimulus bill, nine of them Blue Dogs. But none of them were leaders of the group and there was no mass defection.
Rahm’s been able to write a revisionist history about himself using the press every bit as skillfully as the Republicans did. His genius strategy as head of the DCCC in 2006 was "sidelining candidates who were running in favor of withdrawal from Iraq."
In 2008 he appeared in a candidate training video "haranguing congressional candidates to ‘move right’ on immigration or risk defeat at the hands of Republicans." He triggered a revolt of the Hispanic Caucus on the House floor when his puppet Heath Shuler put forward the enforcement-only SAVE Act and he forced Democratic freshmen to co-sponsor for cover. His advice to candidates with Hispanic constituencies? "They don’t vote, ignore ’em."
Hispanic share of the national vote increased from 8% to 9% from 2004 to 2008 and provided the margin of victory for Obama in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.
As I mentioned yesterday, there is no shortage of journalists jockeying for White House "access" these days, willing to transcribe whatever kind of delusional self-hagiography Rahm dictates in order to get it. Expect these to be the first of many.