Wednesday night, while Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was defending American freedom on the floor of the United States Senate, President Obama was at the posh Jefferson Hotel sitting between Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Greaham, R-S.C., and ten other Republican senators, while dining on foie gras terrrine and lobster Thermidor. Then yesterday, Obama invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan over to the White House for a lunch of broiled sea bass served with a roasted vegetable ragu.

Besides showing off his refined palate, what was Obama trying to accomplish with these meetings? Some liberal pundits believe Obama is just conducting an information campaign to educate Republicans about how reasonable his tax hikes and spending cuts are. They point to blind quotes from some Republican senators confessing they were not aware of all the spending cuts Obama said he would be open to make in exchange for tax hikes.

But while there are surely some Republican Senators who haven’t been following the budget debated closely (McCain and Graham come to mind), the Paul Ryans and Pat Toomeys of the world are well versed in everyone’s current and past offers.

Reporting on Obama’s meeting with Ryan, Politico hinted at the real purpose of Obama’s charm offensive:

By speaking directly with Ryan, Obama is hoping to enlist a powerful ally in convincing leadership to abandon its insistence on subjecting all future measures on the debt, deficit, taxes and entitlement reform to “regular order,” the tortuous committee process dominated by party conservatives, according to a person close to the process.

Yuval Levin comments:

In other words, the president is worried that Congress is getting back to doing its job, rather than just pointlessly tangling with him all the time, and that this might leave him both less relevant and less powerful. I think he’s right, and right to be worried.

If the past few months have not been hugely successful for Republicans, they have been a disaster for the president, whose power naturally diminishes with every passing day in this second term. And he seems to understand why: Republicans have decided to stop focusing on him and start using the leverage they have as the party in charge of one house of Congress—working with Senate Democrats to seek common ground where they can and forcing them to take uncomfortable votes where they can, while taking it for granted that the president will sign anything Congress sends him. That’s the promise of “regular order” for them, and it has some appeal for Senate Democrats too, since the president has offered no agenda for them to rally around and seems to have very little interest in their reelection prospects.

All this seems like a recipe for presidential irrelevance, and Obama seems to be responding to that danger by putting himself back in the middle of the story.

Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget is already over a month late and the White House has signaled they have no intention of releasing one anytime soon. Meanwhile, both the House and Senate are set to release budgets next week. Obama has functionally chosen to make himself irrelevant in the budget debate. If the House and Senate can agree on a CR before the end of this month Obama will have lost pretty much all leverage he has to force the ‘grand bargain’ he desperately seeks on tax hikes and spending cuts. No wonder he is trying to appear as relevant as possible.

From The Washington Examiner
Examiner Editorial: Rand Paul forces straight answer on assassinations
Mark Tapscott: One dinner does not a Great Divider unmake
Joel Gehrke: Sen. Carl Levin’s retirement creates pick-up opportunity for GOP
Byron York: Obama resists simple fixes for sequestration cuts
Conn Carroll: The GOP’s long-term fiscal game plan.
Phil Klein: Beating Hillary Clinton 2016
Brian Hughes: No luck for sixth-graders pleading for WH tour
Tim Carney: The myth of free parking

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Lefty Playbook
Think Progress reports Pelosi Backs Bill That Would Raise Minimum Wage To $10 An Hour
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Righty Playbook
John Hinderaker highlights a new study showing firearms laws do nothing to prevent homicides.
Patrick Brennan on a new CRS reports showing Obama is responsible for a decrease in federal land energy production.
Jeffrey Anderson on The Contrasting Fates of Dow Jones and John & Jane Doe.