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Several Familiar Faces Get to Work On Solving the Fiscal Cliff Dilemma

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Lew is expected to play a role in the negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff.

The top fourleaders in Congress gave marching orders to their staffs to start work on adeal to avert the fiscal cliff before the Thanksgiving break, and the staff gotto work.

One thing is for sure: Both sides have had plenty of practiceat this during the past few years — especially in navigating the serialshutdown showdowns of 2011. While there has been some turnover — SpeakerJohn A. Boehner, R-Ohio,has a new chief of staff in Mike Sommers — most of the other playersremain the same. Along with Sommers, the key staffers whosehandshakes will help seal the deal are White House Chief of StaffJacob J. Lew, chieflegislative liaison Rob Nabors and Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid’s,D-Nev., chief of staff, David Krone. Krone, Lew and Nabors all benefit fromhaving participated in several rounds of similar negotiations. “This isnot the first time that any of them have been to this rodeo,” a seniorDemocratic aide said. Plus, Krone and Nabors have good relations with Sommers.To be sure, other players will be in the room, among them:Gene Sperling, White Housechief economic adviser; Brett Loper, Boehner’s policy chief; SteveStombres, the chief of staff for House Majority LeaderEric Cantor, R-Va.; NeilBradley, Cantor’s policy guy; John Lawrence, House Minority LeaderNancy Pelosi’s,D-Calif., chief of staff; and Rohit Kumar, deputy chief of staff to SenateMinority Leader MitchMcConnell, R-Ky.

David Krone, Chief of staff forSenate Majority Leader HarryReid

Reid’s nattily dressed, intenselyfocused chief of staff has a knack for navigating the Senate’sminefields. He has a sharp political eye and a pragmatic streak for cutting adeal. The former telecommunications executive has deep ties to Reid and adeeper understanding of what he wants. Throughout 2011’s budget battles,Krone was the man in the room with Boehner’s then-chief of staff BarryJackson and Nabors. In the April 2011 discretionary spending fight, a handshakeearly on among those three averted the first government shutdown threat withoutmuch time to spare. After a rocky White House relationship under former WhiteHouse Chief of Staff William M.Daley, Krone has praised the administration and developed a closerelationship with Nabors. So far, they appear to be on the same page headinginto the negotiations. The White House and Reid successfully backed Boehnerinto a corner last year on the payroll tax cut when Obama supportedReid’s refusal to relitigate a deal he made with Senate Republicans.It’ll be worth watching, however, if a split emerges on entitlements.Reid has argued for not touching Social Security. But the issue was on thetable last year in talks between Obama and Boehner.

Jacob J. Lew, White House chief ofstaff

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