Obama, Biden work phones to save bill

 

The White House launched a last-minute blitz Thursday afternoon to rally Democratic support for the $1.1 trillion House spending bill, with President Obama, Vice President Biden and other top officials calling lawmakers on Capitol Hill throughout the afternoon.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest took to MSNBC to argue that the administration had given "Democrats in the House multiple opportunities to negotiate the best deal possible."

"Democrats should be on board with this bill," Earnest said, calling it a "good deal."

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"This is the kind of compromise the president's been seeking from Republicans for years now," he said, the remarks coming just ahead of crucial House Democratic Caucus meeting on the bill.

The White House spokesman also warned Democrats that if they didn't take the available offer, the alternative could be worse. Republican lawmakers have said that if the bill doesn't succeed, they'll instead only offer a three-month continuing resolution, setting up another budget battle in early spring.

Earnest said at that point, the GOP would be "emboldened with an even larger majority in the House" and control of the Senate.

"If they think they want to renegotiate this in three months they're going to have even less leverage," Earnest said.

But the White House is facing one major obstacle: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Less than an hour after Earnest announced that the president was throwing his support behind the spending bill, which would keep the majority of the government funded through the end of the next fiscal year, Pelosi said she was "heartbroken" by the legislation during a speech on the House floor.

Pelosi said that provisions in the bill that would roll back aspects of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law and expand the ability of political parties to accept large-dollar donations amounted to blackmail.

"I’m enormously disappointed that the White House feels that the only way they can get a bill is to go along with this and that would be the only reason they would sign such a bill that would ‘weaken a critical component of financial system reform aimed at reducing taxpayer risk,’ " Pelosi said. "Those are the words in the administration's statement."

She followed that statement up with a "Dear Colleague" letter saying that Republicans did not have the votes to pass the legislation and that "increases our leverage to get two offensive provisions of the bill removed: the bank bailout and big money for campaigns provision."

Earnest refused to say whether the White House believed their whipping could do enough to win the Democrats needed to pass the bill, saying only, "we'll see."

But Earnest said the administration felt "pretty good about it" and that he did not believe there's going to be a government shutdown.

In a subsequent interview with Bloomberg, Earnest said "senior level Democrats" including members of the leadership team would ultimately support the legislation.

"I think at the end of the day that if we do have a vote on this proposal, we're going to see some members of the House Democratic leadership supportive as well," Earnest said.

Earnest declined to say if the White House thought it needed around 40 Democratic votes for the bill to succeed, calling whip counts a "moving target."

"What we're doing is casting a wide net and encouraging as many Democrats as possible to take a close look at what's actually included in this legislation, because there's a lot in there to like," he said.

This story was updated at 5:42 p.m.