Vice President Joe Biden's time would be better spent hammering out Democrats' policy than negotiating differences with Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday evening.
Boehner, in response to a plan to have Biden negotiate with the GOP over spending legislation after congressional talks degenerated into public bickering, didn't rule out the idea, but hardly seemed thrilled about it.
Democrats turned Wednesday to Biden to reprise his role from the lame-duck Congress when he worked with GOP leaders in Congress, particularly Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to reach a deal on extending the expiring Bush tax cuts.
The administration and congressional Democrats hope Biden will enjoy similar success in these negotiations, especially with such a wide chasm between the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic Senate over how much needs to be cut in the remainder of this fiscal year. The government will be funded through March 18, and the absence of congressional action would mean a shutdown.
President Obama put the squeeze on Republicans on Wednesday by releasing a statement goading them into immediately joining negotiations.
"Living with the threat of a shutdown every few weeks is not responsible, and it puts our economic progress in jeopardy," Obama said. "That’s why I’m calling on Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress to begin meeting immediately with the Vice President, my Chief of Staff [William Daley], and Budget Director [Jack Lew] so we can find common ground on a budget that makes sure we are living within our means."
But Boehner said he didn't feel as though he could really negotiate as long as Democrats hadn't actually agreed on their own spending plan.
"We've done our work. I know where we are. They know where we are. But we don't know where their position is," he said. "They don't have a position. So how do I know where they are and what we should negotiate from and what the right number is? I have no idea."