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White House Cheat Sheet: The Budget Players

President Obama must find a way to convince Congress to pass his budget. AP Photo/Ron Edmonds

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.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 26, 2009; 6:02 AM ET
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5 years to go eletronic with medical records.
we better reach that benchmark, because they have been trying to go electronic since 2005 to no avail.
it is the first and foremost stumbling block (along with eligibility factors) that must be tackled before healthcare will be on the road to reform.
the compilation of scattered data, wrong data, incomplete data, or just NO data is overwhelming.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | March 26, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse



"Google" it.

Will it claim among its often unknowing victims the good intentions of Team Obama?

No national crisis can be solved so long as covertly engineered injustice and tyranny subvert human and civil rights and the rule of law in America.

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 26, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

The national debt like the cost of everything else i.e. health care, food, energy, transportation has continued to rise. If spending money now on fixing the health care system will stabilize costs; if investing in alternative energy sources will stabilize energy costs; if investing in a better education system will ensure furture generations are able to compete in the new global economy; if creating programs and policies to help with with global warming that impacts climate changes then we are investing in the future of America and the next generation.

America as a nation is sick. There are many parts of the body that needs aggressive attention. When a person goes to the ER with multiple organ failures, doctors don't give up or try to work on just one organ at a time, they work to stabilize the patient to give him/her the opportunity to recover and the treatment is often very costly. The same goes with America. We can no longer afford to ignore the symptoms. We can no longer afford to put off treatment. The lives of millions of Americans and future generations of Americans are at stake.

Posted by: Nevadaandy | March 26, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

thank goodness he got his TelePrompTer back. He was nothing without it. With the device, he is a good reader. Too bad it's all empty promises again ( or should that be still?)

Posted by: king_of_zouk | March 26, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Another appearance by president Paris. I guess the "live" venue with real reporters was too much. Now it is screened questions via Internet. That way the writers can possibly even actually answer some questions.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | March 26, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

We need to put tire idealogies aside and ask not whether our Government is too big or too small, or whether it is the problem or solution, but whether it is working for the American people.
Where it does not, we will stop spending taxpayer dollars; where it has proven to be effective, we will invest.
Barack Obama

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | March 26, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

It may be a little messy, but otherwise there's nothing wrong with a showdown between liberals and moderates in the Democratic party. Who knows, such give-and-take might actually improve legislation. Why, even Republicans can take part, if they can calm down long enough. ... One of Obama's principles is that it's OK to disagree, and I find that refreshing after the Bush-Cheney-Rove scorched-earth apocalypse. Now you can criticize the president, call him a socialist, whatever, and you won't be labeled a traitorous threat to American security.

Posted by: j-willie | March 26, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

whoops...that's 142

andy: i don't know how much of a mend will be happening next year this time.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | March 26, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

---now, exactly what is the new moderate coalition in the Senate?

Ensign: "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." --

Like passing the economic stabilization act of 2008.

king's up awfully early....reading the budget I presume. all 242 pages. not much to handle, eh?

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | March 26, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

When I saw this headline, I thought it read: 'The Budget Prayers'.

Posted by: newbeeboy | March 26, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

The house and senate will cut out the second Bank bailout to a toon of 125 billion but the healthcare and environtmental stuff will stay as will the tax changes on the richest americans, and that is how the budget will pass. Obama is still hugely popular and for all the sword rattling no Democrat is going to really jump ship. The Senate wants this done with, so that they don't have to deal with more continuing resolutions.

The real fight is going to come next fall when next year's budget comes up for a vote. By then the Economy will be on the mend (or at least leveled off) and the defecit hawks will be out in full force. The White House is hoping though that by then the economy will be showing signs of life, which will mean that Obama's popularity should even be higher then it is now. Then he can use that popularity to pass next year's budget.

IMO, the republicans should hold off on the Byrd option until next year and use it as a threat on the budget process unless Obama agrees to entitlement reform in addition to the budget, which is really the only way to markedly effect the defecit.

Posted by: AndyR3 | March 26, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

With the GOP pouting on the sidelines, Obama's messiest fights will be with moderates in his own party.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | March 26, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

obama's bloated budget is DOA. Out of control spending is not what the doctor ordered. The patient is sick and this will kill him. Maybe it's time to slow down, take a breath and quit driving the national socialist agenda.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | March 26, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

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