White House officials continued to make the case Thursday that they are fully engaged in the budget standoff raging on Capitol Hill, despite criticisms from both sides of the aisle about their absence.
President Barack Obama tapped Vice President Joseph Biden last week as his point person for working with Hill leaders to negotiate a deal to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year or at least past March 18, when the current continuing resolution expires. But Biden left for Europe for a week after his initial meeting with Congressional leaders, which has riled Democrats seeking White House help in reaching consensus with GOP leaders.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Biden remains involved in talks, despite the distance, and said he called Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday while traveling in Russia.
“The phones work all the way from Moscow to Washington,” he said during a briefing. “This is a team effort. We’re very engaged in this process.”
Carney said Wednesday’s Senate votes on the competing Republican and Democratic spending plans were “instructive” in terms of showing both parties how to proceed. The bills failed to pass, as was expected, and remain about $50 billion apart.
“Those votes help point us in the direction where we can find common ground,” he said.
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.