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Obama Tries to Re-Engage on Budget with 9 Days Until Government Shutdown

The President has been completely disengaged on the budget battle in Congress, preferring to let them battle it out while he jets around the country and says “win the future” a lot. And some members of Congress are sick of it. Now, part of this is Congress wanting to share the blame with the White House for whatever comes out. But the other part is a recognition that the caucus is rootless and without direction, and only a party leader can come in and impose that. The fact that Obama set Joe Biden to the task of working out a compromise, only to have Biden leave for Europe for a week, is testimony to the fact that there’s something wrong with this lack of engagement. When Joe Manchin, who I think got to the Senate three days ago, is calling you out for a failure of leadership, there’s a problem of engagement.

So the White House is doing something about it. First of all, they reissued their veto threat on HR 1, the Republican spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year. So that’s just a restatement that the GOP bill will not become law. Next, they issued strong support for the Democratic alternative, which will get a vote in the Senate today. Democrats like Claire McCaskill are already peeling off that bill, which has no chance of passing in the Senate (nor does the Republican plan).

Finally, the White House will meet with Senate Democrats today to work out at least a coherent strategy on the budget negotiations.

President Obama will sit down with Senate Democrats on Wednesday as both political parties spar over a plan to fund the federal government.

White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that Obama would huddle with representatives of the caucus, “to discuss obvious matters.” […]

Obama last week named Vice President Joe Biden to lead a team of White House officials to help hammer out an agreement. But Republicans have criticized the choice, citing Biden’s current overseas trip to Europe.

Carney said Biden is making calls to congressional leaders from Moscow, where he is meeting with top officials.

Obviously there’s a communication problem when the President has to huddle with Senate leaders just 9 days before the deadline to avoid a government shutdown. It is reflected further in the difficulties the White House has with its own cabinet (that article really boils down to “Rahm sucks,” you could have saved column inches). 1600 Pennsylvania is proving to be an isolating place.

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David Dayen

David Dayen