President Obama has handed over the reins of leadership on government funding and the debt limit to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
Reid is now fully in charge of his party's negotiating strategy, a significant change from past showdowns with Republicans.
He has taken the initiative from Obama, who played the principal role in the 2011 debt-limit talks and New Year's fiscal cliff deal. Some Democrats on Capitol Hill are relieved by the switch.
The majority leader has brought a more pugnacious style to the debate, bashing House conservatives as "anarchists" and mocking the "Banana Republican mindset." This is a welcome change for Democrats who thought Obama was too accommodating to Republicans during previous crises.
Simply put, they believe less is more when it comes to Obama's involvement in negotiations with the GOP.
Liberal Democrats do not fully trust Obama, in part because of his more diplomatic style. Their disquiet was deepened by his past tax deals with Republicans and repeated offers to trim Social Security and Medicare costs.
Obama alarmed some in the Senate Democrat caucus last week when he convened congressional leaders at the White House to discuss the government shutdown and looming debt-limit debate.
They feared he might take the lead in the talks and make concessions to get past the current fiscal crisis.
"There's some concern being expressed now that Obama is calling the leaders to the White House that this might be premature," said Sen. Tom Harkin (P-IA). "What's he going to say? What's he going to do? "I hope he just says, 'Harry's the leader. We're following Sen. Reid,'" he added.
Reid praised the president after the Wednesday meeting, reassuring colleagues. "The president of the United States was very, very strong, strong, strong," he said.
Democrat aides say Obama has served as a crucial backstop by refusing to negotiate over the debt limit and quickly issuing veto threats against House measures to defund, delay or otherwise erode the Affordable Care Act.
"There's no question, Reid is now the quarterback," said a Senate Democrat aide.
That became clear when Reid persuaded Obama last month to abandon an effort to set up a bipartisan meeting of congressional leaders before government funding expired.
Reid is pursuing a high-stakes strategy in the hope that by staring down TEA Party conservatives now, he will dissuade them from demanding major concessions in exchange for passing future bills essential to the smooth functioning of government.
His biggest asset has been the solid unity of the Democrat caucus, liberals and centrists alike, despite personal preferences for higher spending levels and changing key elements of the Affordable Care Act.
Nine months ago, Reid failed to hold back the administration as it sought a last minute deal to keep all of the Bush-era tax rates from expiring.
Reid wanted Democrats to take a harder line on the so-called fiscal cliff, say Democrat senators and staff. He was willing to let the tax rates expire to give Democrats more leverage.
Instead, Obama dispatched Vice President Biden to meet with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ri-KY). The resulting deal made most of the Bush tax rates permanent and exempted inheritances under $5 million from taxation.
Many liberals were dismayed...
Republicans would prefer to see Obama or Biden at the table instead of Reid.
"Reid has put himself in charge of this whole thing and Obama is a non-player," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), said. Hatch complained Reid "doesn't want to do anything."
On "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), accused Reid of being "scared" of bipartisan talks aimed at striking a deal.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 10/07/2013
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