Washington observers are fond of intensely analyzing the relationship between President Barack Obama and the man he beat in the fall election, Sen. John McCain. The two have consulted on a wide variety of matters and found convergence on others. But on Monday afternoon, the Arizona Republican took to the Senate floor to unleash a withering attack on the president for deciding to sign an omnibus-spending bill packed with pork.
"The measure has over 9,000 unnecessarily and wasteful earmarks. So much for the promise of change," McCain said. "What are we doing here? Not only business as usual; an outrageous insult to the American people."
The on-and-off partnership, it seemed, had taken a detour towards the frosty.
And yet, within a matter of hours, the two seem to be, well, on again.
On Tuesday, McCain, along with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), announced that he would reintroduce legislation to provide the president with a line-item veto to target wasteful spending. This came just one week after the president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters that Obama would "love to take [a line-item veto] for a test drive."
Had McCain deliberately greased the legislative wheels to give the president the tool he desired? Or was he simply acting on a long-held view about how best to combat wasteful spending? The Senator's office did not immediately say whether they had talked to the White House about the measure.
But the parliamentary maneuver gets at a broader truth: both McCain and Obama share political interests, despite their lingering electoral frictions. While McCain ridiculed the president on the Senate floor for agreeing to sign an omnibus loaded with earmarks, he glossed over the fact that the president too has criticized the bill's pork (albeit while saying he will support the overall package). The two, likewise, have struck similar tones on Afghanistan and Iraq.
It has been, by and large, spending matters on which McCain has feuded with the White House. And it is the extent to which he has sought the spotlight to air his displeasure that has annoyed Democrats and spurred reports of lingering tensions.
As for the substance of the bill: the legislation, which was first introduced in 2007, would give the president the authority to veto specific expenditures in spending bills. But it includes provisions that would allow Congress to vote on those measures removed by the President.