White House Cheat Sheet: The Budget Players
Having concluded a week-long public relations campaign to sell the country on his budget proposal, President Obama now begins the inside game of convincing his former colleagues of the rightness of his plan.
That sales effort began in earnest on Wednesday when Obama spoke to the Senate Democratic caucus and will continue next Monday when he is scheduled to huddle with House Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Although the House unveiled a plan Wednesday that cuts more than $150 billion from Obama's submitted budget, the White House kept on its happy face regarding the differences.
Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag pronounced the administration "very pleased" with the initial discussions at a briefing for reporters, adding that the congressional blueprints are "98 percent the same as the budget proposal the president sent up in February."
Privately, however, the administration knows it is in for a fight over its budget -- particularly on the health care and climate provisions.
Given the battle to come, we thought it would be worthwhile to look at the key generals in Congress who will decide the ultimate fate of the bill -- cribbed from conversations with a variety of Hill sources.
• Kent Conrad/Judd Gregg: The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee are obvious choices and both represent hurdles for Obama. Conrad has already outlined his own proposal that would spend $600 billion less than the Obama plan over five years. Gregg, who was once Obama's nominee for commerce secretary, made headlines last week when he declared that the president's policies were leading the nation toward bankruptcy.
• Evan Bayh: Bayh, the Indiana Democrat, is a leader of a new moderate coalition in the Senate looking for ways to exert their influence and power. And, Bayh has already stated his concerns about the spending in the Obama budget on health care and climate change in particular. The administration needs all 58 Democrats in line behind the budget and Bayh may well hold the key to five to ten votes.
• Paul Ryan: House Republicans have long touted Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, as a rising star. Now's his chance. Ryan will offer the GOP alternative on the budget because Republicans believe that while he is young and conservative, he comes across as a conciliator not a firebrand. He will be tested in the national spotlight in a way unlike any he has experienced since being elected to Congress in 1998.
• Lamar Alexander: The Tennessee Republican senator is intimately involved in the messaging that is coming out of the GOP Conference on the budget. Alexander and his office have headed up a series of bicameral meetings to make sure Republicans in the House and Senate are on the same page when it comes to talking about the budget.
• Robert Byrd: There is considerable debate in the Senate about whether or not Democrats should try to pass the more controversial portion of the budget under chamber rules that would require only 51 votes rather than a filibuster-proof 60. Why does Byrd, the legendary West Virginia Democrat, matter in this debate? Because of the "Byrd Rule," which bans any non-germane material from being included in budget bills. In theory, Republicans could make a series of "Byrd Rule" appeals that would require 60 votes to overcome the debate to carve-up the budget.
What To Watch For:
OFA Debuts Ads: Organizing For America, the grassroots arm of the Democratic National Committee, is launching ads on national cable urging viewers to call Congress and voice support for President Obama's budget proposal. "Thousands are going door to door as part of Organizing for America -- gathering support for President Obama's plan to invest in America's future," says the ad's narrator. "You can help too." The ads are part of a broad push by OFA to utilize the campaign infrastructure built over the past two years to help pass Obama's legislative agenda, an effort that included a nationwide door to door canvass last weekend and emails sent to the 13 million-person OFA list asking them to call on their representatives to support Obama's budget. And, no, the DNC did not release the amount of money they are spending on these particular commercials.
McCain's Call to Action: Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican party's presidential nominee in 2008, will offer a broad and stinging critique of the economic policies offered by President Obama during a speech later today at the Heritage Foundation, according to prepared remarks obtained by the Fix. "While change has been promised, it has not been delivered by either the Congress or the president," McCain will say. He will also make the case that the Obama administration has used the economic crisis to "advance narrower interests and policy initiatives that are best left for debate in better economic times." Of Obama's budget proposal, McCain will say: "President Obama is sticking 5 percent of Americans with the bill for a massive expansion of government." For those who dismiss McCain as a has-been, don't. He remains the best known figure in the Republican Party (yes, even more than Rush Limbaugh) and has shown a willingness to oppose the Obama agenda vocally in the early months of the 111th Congress. Today's speech suggests there is more of that criticism to come from McCain.
Thursday Thrilling Reads: Reading these is like riding a roller coaster.
1. The Post's Dan Balz returns to the fray (from book leave) and pens a great look at Obama's slow-hand political approach.
2. The nominee to be deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency steps aside amid controversy.
3. Is labor willing to negotiate on EFCA?
4. The U.S. Postal Service may be headed to a dead letter office -- permanently.
5. Fix mentor John Harris on the future of journalism.
A New Head of New Dems? Rep. Ellen Tauscher's (Calif.) planned move to the State Department creates an opening at the top of the New Democrat Coalition -- a group of 59 moderate and conservative Democrats in the House. The heir apparent to replace Tauscher, we hear, is Rep. Joe Crowley -- the hard-charging New Yorker who recently was named to a senior post at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Keep an eye on Crowley -- he is a rising star.
Say What?: "Well, typical of the House of Representatives, they acted too quickly before finding out exactly who was responsible, who shouldn't have got the bonuses maybe in the first place." -- Nevada Sen. John Ensign (R) disses the people's house over the 90 percent tax on AIG bonuses during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
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