Vice President Joseph Biden (above) met with House Democrats on Wednesday afternoon to try to win support for the $900 billion tax cut package he negotiated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The White House may have finally figured out the secret to charming Republicans on Capitol Hill: Vice President Joseph Biden.
Biden played a critical role in crafting an agreement with Senate Republicans on tax cut extensions and has twice in two days been dispatched to the Hill to persuade Congressional Democrats to support it. And so far, he’s getting mostly positive reviews — even from some liberal Democrats angry with the details of the deal.
It appears President Barack Obama will rely on the veteran dealmaker more often in the next Congress as he seeks to work with a new reality on Capitol Hill: a Republican House majority and a strengthened Senate GOP minority. Biden served in the Senate for nearly four decades, and when Obama tapped him as his running mate in 2008, many Hill Democrats said it was the Delaware Democrat’s experience that would help the new president advance his agenda.
“He certainly is one very useful weapon that they have,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said.
Unlike Obama’s last high-profile liaison to Congress — former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — Biden has active and healthy relationships with Senate Republicans, and he enjoys a reputation as a trustworthy negotiator. It was hardly a secret that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) held Emanuel in little regard, and Emanuel had perhaps even less respect among House Republicans, who saw Emanuel’s partisan nature up close when he was a member of the House Democratic leadership.
“He has excellent personal relationships. His word is good. For an administration who hasn’t spent much time trying to understand Republicans, he’s a good person to send up,” Alexander said.
Republicans said Biden’s deft negotiating abilities helped to quickly bring the tax cut talks to a satisfactory conclusion.
And even though many Democrats are fuming about some aspects of the package Biden and McConnell crafted in secret, they acknowledge that the White House couldn’t have picked a better person to send to the table.
“I think they’ll use him a lot. He’s a good bridge,” said one Democratic Senator, who has concerns with what Biden negotiated.
“People generally like and trust him. He takes his reputation up there seriously,” added one administration official.
The administration official allowed that Obama may lean on Biden more than before in negotiations with Hill Republicans because of “the new post-midterm dynamic.” Biden was rarely called on to lobby Congress during Obama’s first two years.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.