On Medicare and budget, Clinton may not be helping his party

May 26, 2011

Former President Clinton memorably helped the White House push through a controversial tax deal in December, but he may not be aiding his party now.

News emerged Tuesday that the ex-president had told Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) that he hoped a New York congressional race that Democrats won in part by blasting Ryan’s Medicare proposal didn’t delay Congress and the White House in acting on the issue. He bluntly told Ryan in an off-camera exchange “I hope Democrats don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing.”

The next day, at a fiscal summit sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, he said “it might not be calamitous” if the U.S. defaulted on its debt for a few days, a message at odds with what White House officials have said.

That got the administration’s attention. Clinton later Wednesday retracted the statement, and according to the Wall Street Journal, that happened in part because White House Chief of Staff William Daley called Doug Band, one of Clinton’s top advisers, to encourage the president to shift his position.

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