“We’ll end up back at square one” once the votes are held, Reid said. He urged both sides to “come together, negotiate in good faith.”
But neither party has shown a willingness to give ground after the votes. And with the clock ticking on the current short-term continuing resolution, Democrats — who themselves are divided on levels of spending cuts — are anxiously looking to the White House for guidance.
A senior House Democratic aide said Democrats were “at least somewhat” relieved when Obama dispatched Vice President Joseph Biden to meet with Hill leaders last week try to hash out a budget blueprint. But that meeting ended without a breakthrough, and with Biden now on a weeklong trip in Europe, Democrats’ concerns about the lack of White House involvement may intensify.
“After these votes fail and with Biden gone, it might re-up,” the aide said.
A senior Senate Democratic aide concurred that Biden’s role in last week’s talks helped to allay concerns but said many are watching to see how and to what degree Obama engages over the next two weeks.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sought to tamp down the idea that the White House will be absent from the budget talks.
“There are continued conversations at the staff level that have continued through the weekend and through today, and will continue as the Senate begins to take action on the bills that are on the table, which, I think, will be an important milestone as we make progress in these negotiations,” he said during a Monday briefing.
Carney also maintained that Biden would be reachable in the coming days if necessary.
“In the era of modern communications, it’s certainly possible that the vice president could get on the phone with anyone here in Washington who needed to speak with him,” he said.
Meanwhile, Obama is leaning on another form of communication to show his engagement on the issue. In an e-mail sent Monday by the Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America, which the president has used to rally his base, organizers call on Obama’s backers to voice support for a spending plan that reflects Democratic priorities and to reject the sweeping cuts proposed by Republicans.
“The president is calling on both sides to come together, but it’s up to us to show Republicans in Congress that we have his back,” the e-mail reads. “As negotiations heat up, we all need to speak out to make sure they get the message. Stand with the president by signing your name today, and OFA volunteers will deliver your signatures to House Republicans and make sure your voice is not ignored.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.