3:45 p.m. ET: When today began, President Obama seemingly had his work cut out for him if he hoped to attract any additional Republican votes for the economic stimulus plan.
But though he spent a good deal of time meeting with House and Senate Republicans, there's little evidence that Obama's lobbying campaign did much good. Mike Castle -- who should be low-hanging fruit for Democrats -- tells the Wall Street Journal that he's still undecided on the bill and that Obama will get "a couple of dozen" Republican votes, at most. And, tellingly, Eric Cantor praised the president for his willingness to work with the GOP but added: "Unfortunately, Congressional Democrats have not shown the same willingness for bipartisan compromise – and that is reflected in their bill." Mike Pence took a similar tack, complaining that "House Democrats have completely ignored the president’s call for bipartisan cooperation."
Democrats have sought to combat that perception today, releasing a memo outlining all the hours of committee debate and all the opportunities Republicans have had to offer amendments to the package. Good or bad, this is not an instance where the bill was dropped in the dead of night -- something both parties have been guilty of doing in recent years. And Democrats are starting to chafe at the GOP's definition of bipartisanship. "Being bipartisan does not mean having to lay down and say we'll do whatever you want," Steny Hoyer said today. And even Obama's willingness to compromise has its limits; he reportedly told Republicans he would not compromise any further on tax cuts.
Obama may well be able to peel off a few Republican votes with personal lobbying, or with gestures like removing family planning funds for low-income people from the stimulus measure. But John Boehner, who urged his GOP colleagues this morning to stand firm, predicted, "We'll have a united front. I don’t know that we’ll get everyone, but we’ll get virtually everybody.” It's looking more and more like Boehner will be right.
9:20 a.m. ET: Lest there be any confusion, the question below about what Vice President Biden is doing today was not meant to suggest that he's doing nothing, or that his schedule is a big secret. According to his office, he's breakfasting with Hillary Clinton this morning, then attending the president's daily intelligence and economic briefings at the White House. After that, he'll speak at the Senate Democratic Caucus' weekly lunch.
8 a.m. ET: President Obama heads to the Hill today to talk about the economy. George Mitchell is in the Middle East for his first visit there as special envoy. Tim Geithner is settling into his first day as Treasury Secretary. What will Vice President Biden be doing?
We're only a week into the Obama administration, and lots of officials from top to bottom are still trying to figure out their roles. But none are as high up in the line of succession as Biden. In his first major interview as vice president this weekend, Biden told Bob Schieffer: "I don't see myself as the 'deputy president.' I see myself as the president's confidant. Hopefully I can help shape policy with him. … Hopefully I'm the last person in the room with every important decision he makes."
Note the use of "hopefully." It's too early to judge whether Biden will play the role he envisions. Will he be the last person in the room with Obama, or will it be Rahm Emanuel? The high-profile chief of staff has already been called "arguably the second most powerful man in the country." Then you have Hillary Clinton, who is taking the foreign policy brief -- Biden's chief area of expertise -- along with a host of other big personalities, including Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke.
And on the domestic front, Biden has more experience in Congress than anyone else in the administration, but there's no evidence yet that he will serve as anything like the White House's top emissary or chief dealmaker on the Hill, a role that Richard Cheney played regularly early on in the Bush administration. (One other change: You can now see the vice president's house better than you could when Cheney lived there.) Obama himself is handling those emissary duties today, with his back-to-back meetings with Hill Republicans. And when it comes to the details of legislation, you can expect Geithner and Larry Summers to take the lead on economic issues. Tom Daschle is there to shepherd health care.
What does that leave for Biden -- other than swearing in Cabinet secretaries? Obviously, the vice president will over time be able to carve out a role for himself. It's just not immediately clear what it will be. If Biden himself has stronger views on the subject, he isn't saying -- a departure for the man so well-known for outspokenness. As Biden said during that CBS interview, referencing his reputation for being candid: "It is harder now. I'm really happy to be part of a team. But what I have to think about now is, everything I say … reflects directly on the administration. And so I may have strongly-held views that the president may not have.
"But, yes, the bottom line, it's harder!"
January 27, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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