Senate Democratic leaders are getting pretty sick of the White House trying to set the Senate floor schedule.
The latest recriminations come after top White House lobbyist Phil Schiliro told the Senate to take up an energy bill by the week of July 12 as part of a plan to hammer out differences with the House in a post-election lame-duck session.
Senate Democrats aren't taking too well to the White House's penchant for setting deadlines.
"I love that the executive branch has decided what the legislative branch should do — and I say that facetiously," said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
High-ranking Democratic aides were even more blunt: "I hope they're prepared to round up the votes as well, because until we get 60 votes, all this talk doesn't mean anything," said a senior Democratic aide.
Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) targeted a July deadline for the legislation — but it's not clear whether any of the various proposals or any combination of them can produce the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Several senators sidestepped the fray but made clear that they don't take their cues from the White House's legislative affairs office — or even the Oval Office.
"I think he'd have to discuss that with Harry Reid," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said, referring to Schiliro's latest deadline.
"I usually rely upon my chairman," said Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, chairman of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation panel, where coal-state Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) holds the reins over energy policy.
But Inouye, who has experience with congressional-presidential relationships dating back to the Eisenhower administration, also said he didn't blame the White House for trying to prod the Senate.
"They're just doing their job," he said of White House aides. "I commend them for doing it."
The president called on Congress to pass energy legislation during his first Oval Office address to the nation on Tuesday night, but the Senate loathes a hard and fast deadline — especially in an election year in which every vote is magnified. The president avoided the hotly contested issue of carbon limits and generally shied away from specifics.
The White House has had a controversial history of setting deadlines for Congress, a practice that has irked Democrats lawmakers in the past and given fodder to Republican critics.
Many of the deadlines set by the president and his aides came and went during the health care debate. And just a few months ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to "cool it" on assigning deadlines for the Hill after press secretary Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama wanted the House to pass the Senate health care bill by March 18 before he was scheduled to leave for an overseas trip. (Source)