Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not been shy about expressing displeasure with the White House in the past, but he refused to comment on White House Counselor Pete Rouse taking on an expanded role, saying the shift is none of my business.
Graham and other Senate Republicans point to the White House’s lack of involvement in pushing for a deal from the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction as a sign that it is in full-on campaign mode.
“They are playing zero role in this,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said of the White House’s involvement with the super committee. He dismissed the White House shuffle as a “yawner.” Corker said he’s had good conversations with Daley as a fellow former businessman, but he said the White House has become disengaged from the legislative process.
But Corker said he still expects Daley to be the one reaching out to the GOP.
“I’m sure he’ll still be the same guy I call,” he said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the No. 3 Republican, said it appears the White House thinks “that Rouse is better able to coordinate with the campaign, and the campaign seems to be calling all the shots, which is unfortunate because we’re at a time where the country and the world needs us to come to a result on debt reduction.”
And Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) said that the move is another sign that “the partisans have taken over the White House. Daley is a reasonable human being. He’s somebody you can work with. And there’s a considerable number of people who don’t want that.”
The shift itself is a bit undefined — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that more was being made of the change than was the reality and that the change had been in the works for weeks or months.
Carney said Daley would remain chief of staff and wasn’t giving up his duties, even as Rouse was taking on more. In addition, Daley previously announced he will exit the White House after the election, even if Obama is re-elected.
“It’s about making the White House as effective and efficient as possible. ... And what Bill announced in one of our meetings yesterday morning was simply that, as most of you know or a lot of you know, ‘I’ve asked Pete to take on these additional responsibilities to help us function better.’”
Carney said the change would largely affect internal communication.
Regardless of the particulars of the shuffle, the larger shift in the White House’s dealings with Congress, the Democratic aides said, is a much tougher line against Hill Republicans, which they also interpret as a sign of Daley’s waning influence.
Republicans who are concerned that Daley, their most friendly contact in the White House, is getting marginalized only have themselves to blame, one of the aides said. “They didn’t make any concessions to keep him there. The didn’t meet him halfway on anything.”