Veep pitches plan to Hill Dems

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Vice President Joe Biden today visited dismayed Democrats on Capitol Hill to pitch the simmering debt ceiling deal.

“I did not go to convince; I went to explain and lay out exactly how we got to where we are, and why this is so important for the country,” Biden told reporters waiting to meet him at the U.S. Capitol.

Biden has to sell the deal to House Democrats, partly because Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi dislikes the deal, and is not publicly pressuring progressive and liberals representatives to support it.

New York Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman, for example, complained that Republicans “invited [President Barack Obama] to bargain at a strip poker table, and the president showed up half-naked.”

“My sense is that they expressed all their frustration,” said Biden.

However, he insisted, “I’m confident” the deal will be approved. “I thought it was a good meeting and I feel confident that this [frustration] will pass,” he said. The deal “has one overwhelming redeeming feature: It says this debt issue can’t come up again until 2013.”

“If we had our way and there was a different circumstance in the Congress, we would be talking, and should be talking, right now about job creation initiatives, about infrastructure, about investment in education, about investment in innovation,” the vice president said. (RELATED: Tax increases still on Obama’s horizon)

GOP legislators used the debt ceiling dispute to derail the administration’s planned 2011 jobs push, he said. “The President made that clear in his State of the Union speech … But there is a Sword of Damocles hanging over us [and] this is the debt limit, and it was used as the means by which, unless certain compromises were made, we would default on our debt,” he said.

Democratic legislators, including Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, have said they tried to persuade their leadership to pass a large debt ceiling increase shortly after the November 2010 elections, when the Democrats held solid majorities in both the House and Senate.