This week I endorsed the President’s nominee for OMB Director, Jack Lew. Far more importantly, I see that Budget Committee Ranking Minority Members Paul Ryan (House) and Judd Gregg (Senate) endorsed Mr. Lew. This tells me his eventual confirmation is a slam dunk.
In a follow-up email conversation a well-connected Republican friend stressed the intensity of internecine warfare among DC Democrats right now. To this insider, Democratic House and Senate Leaders appear to be at each other’s throats, largely over Leader Reid’s inability to pass bills that in the past have been routine (like extenders + UI), as well as a belief among some House Democrats that the White House uses them as “cannon fodder.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ comment this weekend that Republicans might take the House created a dustup with House Democrats that continues to swirl. I then read Dana Perino’s post about the Pelosi-Gibbs spat and what it may tell us about White House thinking. Key quote:
Democrats know they’ll lose seats in November — I think what surprised people is that their internal polling at the White House must be such that they really think they could be dealing with a Republican House majority for the next two years.
My friend and I surmised that this Democrat-on-Democrat violence results in large part from their fear of losing seats or even the majority, driven by the combination of a weak economy, huge budget deficits, and no apparently effective policy solution to either. In my experience it’s very hard to keep a partisan majority working together as a team when that majority is threatened — individuals are less willing to “take one for the team” and worry far more about what they need to do to keep their own seat.
Combining Republican support for Mr. Lew, with Democratic intraparty squabbling, with Dana’s hypothesis about the White House’s view about the fall elections leads me to a hypothesis.
Of the candidates publicly discussed for OMB, Mr. Lew is the one most likely to draw praise from Republicans, and the President’s team is smart enough to know that. There are plenty of reasons why Mr. Lew will make a good budget director, and I detailed them yesterday.
At the same time, I wonder if the President’s selection of Mr. Lew in part reflects a view among Team Obama that they may be dealing with a Republican House Majority next year. At a minimum it’s an added bonus and smart contingency planning on the part of the White House, albeit at the expense (once again) of their House Democratic allies.
Put it this way: as President if you somehow knew you would face a Republican House majority next year, you’d want a budget director who could work with them while ardently defending your policy views. Jack Lew would be that guy. Team Obama cannot possibly know this, but I wonder if Dana is right — maybe they think they could be dealing with a Republican House majority for the next two years, and maybe they’re starting to play for that possibility
This is guest post was published with permission from economist Keith Hennessey.
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