‘The Problem . . . Is a Very Weak Executive’

by Robert Costa

Speaking with a number of Senate Republicans today, in background conversations, it’s clear that President Obama’s debt-reduction plan is not being taken seriously. To show their dissatisfaction, many are hoping to bring it to the floor soon, in order to vote it down — with the help of Democrats. One key thing to watch, many say, is how many Democrats break with the president in coming days.

“The problem we have here is a very weak executive,” one GOP senator says. “The Democrats smell that more than us, they talk about it constantly. [Republicans] are together on this, but I don’t think they are.”

Republicans think this proposal will flop just like the president’s budget, largely ignored by both chambers. “We see him digging in, politically,” adds another Senate Republican. “He is speaking to his base. He knows they’re unhappy. This, and so much of the past few weeks, has been about setting up next year’s themes. That’s what the White House is doing. They know, and we know, that with this kind of approach, they won’t find help on the Hill. It’s a shame, but that’s what it is.”

That takeaway, it seems, is the general consensus of the conference, at least for the moment.

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