CALLING ON BIDEN…. In theory, one of the advantages of having a president move from the Senate to the White House is his/her ability to leverage a legislative career to advance his/her agenda. That doesn’t work quite the same way with President Obama — he came from the Senate, but he wasn’t actually of the Senate. Members include his former colleagues, but Obama doesn’t necessarily have long-standing bonds that he can use to his advantage now.
Joe Biden, however, is a different story.
The LA Times had a good piece yesterday, noting that the vice president “appears to be solidifying his relationship with his boss and accumulating more assignments central to the administration’s agenda.”
Sam Stein reports today that the White House is poised to include health care arm-twisting to Biden’s to-do list.
[T]he assets he brings to the debate are of increasing importance and White House aides say he will be deployed by the president in a more strategic matter — primarily as a bridge between the administration and those recalcitrant Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans critical to reform’s passage.
“He has pretty substantial relationships with most members of the Senate who didn’t come in this year,” said one administration official. “He knows [Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max] Baucus (D-Mont.) well, he knows [Sen. Chuck] Grassley (R-Iowa). He knows [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid (D-Nev.). It is going to depend on what the issues are and who he needs to talk to but there is no one who is currently playing a major role that he doesn’t have a long relationship with.”
Jay Carney, a chief spokesman for Biden, noted that the vice president is set to hold a roundtable discussion with health care professionals and Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this Friday in Chicago. In addition, Carney said, the vice president has been advising Obama privately on the matter over the past few months.
“He serves the president as a confidential adviser who brings a lot of perspective and experience,” Carney said. “Because of his years in the Senate and his relationships there, he is also in frequent contact with his former colleagues on the issue. I’m sure that will continue as the process moves forward in Congress.”
Biden could also play an important role beyond Capitol Hill. Part of the reason he was chosen as vice president was for his appeal to elderly and white working class communities — two major constituencies that have soured on the White House’s approach to the health care debate.
But it’s the Hill, where Biden spent nearly the last four decades, where the V.P. can have the greatest impact. It doesn’t generate headlines, but he frequently invites senators to his residence to help keep his friendships intact, and the LAT noted the Biden is “hanging on to his locker at the Senate gym.”
If someone’s going to be twisting some arms, Biden seems like the right guy to do it.