Time for Biden to Twist Some Arms on Health Reform

The White House is poised to include health care arm-twisting to Biden's to-do list.

CALLING ON BIDEN.... In theory, one of the advantages of having a president move from the Senate to the White House is his/her ability to leverage a legislative career to advance his/her agenda. That doesn't work quite the same way with President Obama -- he came from the Senate, but he wasn't actually of the Senate. Members include his former colleagues, but Obama doesn't necessarily have long-standing bonds that he can use to his advantage now.

Joe Biden, however, is a different story.

The LA Times had a good piece yesterday, noting that the vice president "appears to be solidifying his relationship with his boss and accumulating more assignments central to the administration's agenda."

Sam Stein reports today that the White House is poised to include health care arm-twisting to Biden's to-do list.

[T]he assets he brings to the debate are of increasing importance and White House aides say he will be deployed by the president in a more strategic matter -- primarily as a bridge between the administration and those recalcitrant Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans critical to reform's passage.

"He has pretty substantial relationships with most members of the Senate who didn't come in this year," said one administration official. "He knows [Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max] Baucus (D-Mont.) well, he knows [Sen. Chuck] Grassley (R-Iowa). He knows [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid (D-Nev.). It is going to depend on what the issues are and who he needs to talk to but there is no one who is currently playing a major role that he doesn't have a long relationship with."

Jay Carney, a chief spokesman for Biden, noted that the vice president is set to hold a roundtable discussion with health care professionals and Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this Friday in Chicago. In addition, Carney said, the vice president has been advising Obama privately on the matter over the past few months.

"He serves the president as a confidential adviser who brings a lot of perspective and experience," Carney said. "Because of his years in the Senate and his relationships there, he is also in frequent contact with his former colleagues on the issue. I'm sure that will continue as the process moves forward in Congress."

Biden could also play an important role beyond Capitol Hill. Part of the reason he was chosen as vice president was for his appeal to elderly and white working class communities -- two major constituencies that have soured on the White House's approach to the health care debate.


Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."
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