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White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley was pitched to Capitol Hill as the guy who could cut deals with a resurgent GOP, but it hasn’t turned out that way amid this year’s series of debt crises and gridlock.
The news that Daley had tapped his immediate predecessor, White House counselor and longtime Capitol Hill aide Pete Rouse, to take on a leading operational role at the White House has gotten a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill, ranging from yawns to relief to resignation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has made known his displeasure with the White House over various slights this year — including a recent interview in Politico in which Daley blamed Democrats and Republicans for blocking the president’s agenda.
When the news broke this week that Daley was scaling back his duties, Reid refused to weigh in, calling the shuffle “none of my business.”
But several senior Democratic aides told Roll Call that they feel Daley had already become marginalized in recent months — with Rouse and other White House aides increasing their contacts on Capitol Hill.
“Rouse has great relationships up here,” said one senior aide, who also praised White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors, a longtime appropriations staffer, for stepped-up coordination with Senate Democrats. “They get the way the Senate works,” the aide said.
Senate Democrats complained earlier this year that they sometimes felt out of the loop on debt negotiations between the White House and Republicans, and Daley’s stock also sank with the snafu over the scheduling of President Barack Obama’s jobs speech at the same time as a GOP presidential debate, aides said.
Much of Daley’s cachet has come from his relationships with Republicans, particularly with Speaker John Boehner, and the scheduling dispute with the Ohio Republican reinforced his lack of pull, one aide said.
Several Senate Republicans praised Daley in interviews with Roll Call but said his efforts to reach out to the GOP had run into Obama’s need to find someone to blame for the limping economy ahead of the 2012 election.
“The governing model has been replaced by the ‘blame Congress’ model,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. “A guy like Daley is useless in that enterprise. ... They hired a guy to do A, which was to try find a way to solve problems, which he’s pretty good at, and now they’ve got a political strategy where he’s basically worthless. That’s why. That role no longer exists.”