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Obama, Reid and ‘the Crazies’

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

We might never know exactly who President Barack Obama had on his mind when he called people “crazies” Monday night.  

But he sure had plenty to talk about when traveling in the motorcade with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid from the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas to a high-dollar fundraiser for state Democrats and Reid’s hand-picked successor, former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.  

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One back from Las Vegas that while the word choice was perhaps “flip,” it was not directed at opponents of the Iran deal, a group that includes the New York Democrat in line to take over as party leader in the Senate, Charles E. Schumer.  

“I will tell you that after spending a few weeks away from Washington, the president — after spending a few weeks away from the hustle and bustle of Washington, the president came back from vacation and was remarking with Sen. Reid at the challenges they face this fall. And he may have been a little flip in his language, but we have seen Republicans do wildly irresponsible things in the past, and that includes shutting down the government for ideological reasons,” Schultz said. “That’s a prospect that came to fruition a few years ago, and it’s something that Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are floating this time as well.”  

Schultz pointed to the September 2013 standoff over government funding for Obamacare that precipitated a government shutdown.  

“His bottom line is that if you take a step back, as he was during vacation, and take a look at what some Republicans float in Washington — whether that’s shutting down the government, whether that’s continuing to fund the government at sequester levels when our economy needs more support and not headwinds — he thinks those are reckless steps,” Schultz said.  

Reid and his caucus have blocked the advancement of any regular fiscal 2016 spending bills in opposition to the spending levels in current law used by Republicans. They have called for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to engage in budget talks, but there has been no progress without the bills advancing.  

That sets up the obvious need to move a continuing resolution before Oct. 1, to keep discretionary funding rolling. The House Appropriations Committee is seeking to craft a stopgap bill with a minimum of contentious policy provisions to give a chance for the dozen regular bills to be packaged later on.  

But that plan could cause problems with social conservatives who want to see GOP leaders take a stand against funding Planned Parenthood. And Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is already pushing for a fight over longer-term spending as part of an effort later in the fall to raise the debt limit.  

Schultz said one specific example of a policy provision the president would find “reckless” includes GOP-led efforts to curtail enforcement of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul through the budget process.  

“Look, I think if you look at some of the things being proposed by Republicans in Washington — for example, watering down Wall Street reform, which is something that has built in the safeguards to our capital markets at a time where we’re seeing wild gyrations in global markets, we do find that irresponsible,” Schultz said.  

Republicans have long sought to have the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau bankrolled through the regular appropriations process.  

Obama and Reid’s motorcade conversation garnered attention after the president mentioned “crazies” during the fundraiser for Masto and the Nevada Democratic Party in a portion of his remarks praising the retiring Senate minority leader. As Schultz said Tuesday, there was nothing in the transcript to indicate the president was talking about the effort to upend the Iran deal.  

“It’s hard for me to express how much I love Harry Reid,” Obama said Monday night, sometimes disrupted by applause from the crowd of donors. “But it’s easier to do it in a room of people who love Harry Reid. Harry and I drove over here together and we were doing a little reminiscing, and then figuring out how we’re going to deal with the crazies in terms of managing some problems. And then we talked about riding off into the sunset together.”  

Obama also praised Masto, saying that Reid had of course encouraged him to support her effort to keep the Nevada Senate seat in Democratic hands.  

“The thing about Harry is he’s a great politician but he’s also a man with a lot of backbone and is willing to do hard things when it’s required, and that’s what you want out of a political leader,” Obama said. “That’s part of the reason why Harry has made me so confident about Catherine and her capacity to do a great job in the United States Senate.”

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