President Barack Obama’s deficit working group is off to a shaky start, with lawmakers from both parties expressing skepticism about another round of talks
and the White House already agreeing to reduce the number of participants after complaints from congressional leaders
Obama asked the leaders this week to name 16 lawmakers – four per caucus – to begin bipartisan negotiations in May led by Vice President Joe Biden, but not all of them agreed.
Such pre-negotiations aren’t unusual for Washington or this White House. Obama has put congressional leaders on the spot several times over the last two years, publicly announcing meetings that the leaders weren’t always keen on attending. Days, and even weeks, of back-and-forth between the White House and the leaders would ensue
before all sides eventually sat down together.
But the hand-wringing ahead of the talks – before the divisive policy points are even touched – suggest a tough few weeks
for the White House and Congress.
Lawmakers and aides in both parties
have been skeptical
of a new panel, with some suggesting that the congressional leaders and the president himself would ultimately take over the negotiations, similar to the way both sides broke an impasse over extending the Bush-era tax cuts in December.
Some members participating in a bipartisan Senate group known as the Gang of Six
– as well as those senators with an interest in the group’s results – worry that the Biden panel will undermine their work.
So far, only Reid has announced his appointments, and some on the Hill found his choices curious: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who voted against the White House fiscal commission report
in December and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the self-proclaimed “king of pork