The last time Washington flirted with default, in 2011, Vice President Joe Biden rode to the rescue as the Great Dealmaker with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Dispatched to the Hill, Biden brokered an 11th-hour compromise with Republicans that helped stave off a fiscal calamity.
But this go-round, the normally loquacious Biden is notably silent and sidelined.
While lawmakers huddled this weekend and President Obama monitored developments from the White House, Biden and his wife were squirreled away at Camp David, where they remained through this morning.
The VP has not spoken in public since the shutdown began 14 days ago and has completely wiped his schedule of planned appearances, including a trip to New Jersey to campaign for Senate candidate Cory Booker, a fundraiser with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a speech at the Human Rights Campaign annual gala.
The last time Biden was heard from was at the J-Street National Conference Sept. 30, hours before the shutdown, when he made no mention of the budget battle.
“Maybe we need to get Joe Biden out of the witness-protection program because he has good relationships” with lawmakers, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday on “Face the Nation.”
Vice President Biden’s office has cited the government shutdown as the reason for cancelling his public schedule. But several Senate Republican aides said the lack of a role for Biden is unsurprising, given the White House’s stated refusal to negotiate over a debt limit increase or a government shutdown.
Another factor might be disappointment among some congressional Democrats in past deals brokered by Biden, with many wary he might now give too much away. Politico reported last week that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanded that the White House keep Biden out of any talks. Reid’s office declined to comment.
Administration officials insist the vice president is engaged in the fiscal standoff and has remained by Obama’s side throughout, even if he hasn’t been in the spotlight.
Biden has joined the president in the Oval Office each morning since Oct. 1 for the daily briefing and attended each Obama meeting with the congressional caucuses. He will also be at the table when Obama convenes a session with House Speaker John Boehner, Pelosi, Reid and McConnell that was postponed this afternoon.
“If he walks out with the aviators on, you know we have a deal,” former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau tweeted of Biden.
This post has been updated.