April 9th, 2011
03:15 AM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – In a town where politicians like to keep score the White House isn’t boasting about the budget victory. “The American people" won, a senior administration official told reporters at a background briefing after the deal was reached. This is a "very good night for the country."
The White House was feeling optimistic that it was on the verge of a deal Thursday night.
When House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Harry Reid left the Oval Office meeting, “there was kind of an agreement on a range and agreement on the kind of composition,” said another one of five officials who briefed reporters.
But by three or four o’clock in the morning Friday, the officials described a breakdown.
“There was a higher number,” said one official, “north of $80 billion dollars. There was also renewed talk about family planning.
As sharp verbal punches were thrown throughout the day on Capitol Hill, the White House kept silent. The president never made any public statements and spokesman Jay Carney never held his daily briefing. That was not by accident, according to the officials who briefed reporters.
It was a “directive from him," [president] one official said.
The idea was to stay out of sight, avoid finger pointing, and allow negotiators to work out a compromise.
The senior administration officials painted a picture of a president who rolled up his sleeves and got engaged throughout the process.
"Every time the process seemed to get bogged down the president picked up the phone and made clear that we had a responsibility to the American people...that we shouldn't play politics."
“He did not want this to become a family planning bill he wanted it to be a spending bill,” one official said.
In fact, on Friday the president spoke by phone with House Speaker Boehner four times. (only two calls had previously been made public) He also spoke with Senate majority leader Reid “multiple times,” one of the officials said.
During one of the Oval Office meeting this week, one of the officials described how the president went through every controversial rider that Republicans wanted.
Rob Nabors, his Legislative Affairs Director, who had been carrying around a list of the riders, pulled out his papers then sought out a copy machine so that everyone in the meeting could get a copy. It took so long that Boehner was said to joke that they “might want to find a faster copy machine?”
In describing the tone of these meetings one official said “at no point did the discussions in the room get personal.”
The president never scolded Boehner for public comments that appeared to contradict what was being discussed in private negotiations, the officials said.
Neither side wanted a government shutdown, but the president wasn’t willing to give ground on allowing the controversial family planning rider to be part of the deal.
"In this case we just were not going to move on this, said one of the officials."
"We cut some things that were hard for us to cut."
"You have to make tough choices, the official said."
So what forced the deal? “The clock probably played the most important factor," said one of the officials.
With the clock winding down Nabors was on the Hill, kept the White House informed throughout the negotiation process and signaled that a deal had been reached.
It was White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley who informed the president around 10:30pm.