Here’s the recipe for a new fiscal cliff drinking game in Washington. Ask a member of the Gang of Eight bipartisan senators trying to work on a resolution to head off the fiscal cliff and then drink every time they mention the “Friday” “meeting” at the “White House” with “President” “Obama” “Speaker” John “Boehner” and other congressional “leaders.”
Talk to just one member and you are likely tipsy. Talk to two and now you are surely buzzed.
Despite the bipartisan gang’s continued meetings (they met Monday night, Tuesday morning and plan to meet again this week) in an effort to help stave off the fiscal cliff, their message Wednesday was that the focus should not be on them, but on the talks at the White House particularly the conversations between Obama and Boehner.
“At this point the president and the speaker and the other leaders are going to be meeting at the White House in a couple days and I think the focus needs to be on those meetings,” gang member Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, told reporters Wednesday.
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., another member of the group meeting in an unofficial capacity also stressed the need to focus on the White House.
“I think we are anxious all of us to see what happens with the president’s meeting,” he told the Alley. “I want to make sure that I don’t do anything to interfere with the president with John Boehner and their discussions. They are all positioning in public. I understand that. But my hope is that we’ll all come to grips with what’ve we got to get done here between now and the end of the year.”
Johanns added that he doesn’t see the Gang as getting in the way, he wants to make sure they don’t upstage the talks at the White House.
“I don’t see us as an interference, but I don’t want to do anything at this point to upset what is going on at the White House,” he said. “Although my state vehemently disagreed with the election result in the presidential race, he won and he is president. It’s his opportunity to lead so we shall see.”
Crapo went out of his way to repeatedly shoe away questions about the gang and to shift focus to the White House meeting.
“I can’t speak for the rest of [the gang] but I think everybody should expect the meetings between the president and particularly the speaker are going to be one of the more critical sets of meetings with regard to how we move forward in the lame duck and how we move forward with regard to the fiscal cliff and ultimately with resolution of the debt crisis,” he said. “That does not mean that other members of Congress and other leaders in the country cannot or will not get engaged, but now with that meeting in two days that’s where the focus should be.”
He said that the gang keeps talking, but again, that’s not the focus.
“Although there are many others -- not just the Gang of Eight -- that are trying to help find a path forward here, I don’t think that we need to be looking at other options in terms of the decision-making process right now other than that,” he said, referring to the White House talks.
“So we keep working. I’m quite confident that we can find a path forward but I’m also looking at the meetings on Friday to see if they give us a path forward.”