Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) confronted White House budget director Jack Lew during a Thursday afternoon meeting about secret talks on a deficit-reduction deal between the president and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
“I’m the Senate majority leader — why don’t I know about this deal?” Reid demanded as soon as the budget director walked into the historic Mansfield Room for a meeting with Senate Democrats, according to a lawmaker who witnessed the exchange.
Lew shot back: “If there’s a deal, then the president doesn’t know about it, the vice president doesn’t know about it and I don’t know about it.”
A Senate Democratic aide confirmed the exchange took place.
Democrats were outraged about reports that Obama was willing to accept major spending cuts in exchange for reforming the tax code at some point in the future as part of a deal to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
Reid and other Democrats warned the administration officials in the meeting that they might not support a deal between Obama and Boehner if kept out of the loop.
“It was a heated session,” said a senior Democratic senator who attended the lunch. “There’s a basic lack of trust with the president.”