On a Senate Call, a Glimpse of Marching OrdersBy JENNIFER STEINHAUER
Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.
After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how to cut spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”
A minute or two into the talking-points tutorial, though, someone apparently figured out that reporters were listening, and silence fell.
Then the conference call began in earnest, with the Democrats right on message.
“We are urging Mr. Boehner to abandon the extreme right wing,” said Ms. Boxer, urging the House to compromise on the scale of spending cuts and to drop proposed amendments that would deny federal financing for Planned Parenthood and for government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mr. Carper continued with the theme, referring to some House Republicans’ “right-wing extremist friends.” Mr. Cardin decried Mr. Boehner’s giving into “extremes of his party.” Mr. Blumenthal closed by speaking of the “relatively small extreme group of ideologues” who are “an anchor” dragging down the budget negotiation process.
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