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Biden Says Outside Money Threatens Democrats’ Control of House

U.S. Vice President Joseph “Joe” Biden
“We will keep control of the Senate for certain, and I believe we’ll keep control of the House” in the Nov. 2 midterm elections, Biden said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Vice President Joe Biden said Democrats will maintain a majority in the Senate while he worries that hundreds of millions of dollars in anonymous donations to campaign groups backing Republicans could cost his party control of the House of Representatives.

“We will keep control of the Senate for certain, and I believe we’ll keep control of the House” in the Nov. 2 midterm elections, Biden said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.

Still, he said, he has been “amazed” by the amount of money flowing into outside campaign groups advertising against Democratic candidates. “The only caveat I’d put in terms of the House is how much impact” the funding has.

Biden brushed aside criticism of the handling of the $814 billion economic-stimulus package, saying “it’s the best-run federal program there’s ever been.” He also said Republican control of Congress would be bad for business and declared it’s never morally acceptable for homeowners to walk away from a mortgage they have the ability to pay.

He signaled a willingness to make small concessions in accepting more of the Bush-era tax cuts when asked if the White House would consider raising the $250,000 limit President Barack Obama wants on income that would still be taxed at lower rates. Republicans want the lower rates continued for all taxpayers, including the highest-income earners.

‘Open’ to Talks

“We’re open to speak to the Republicans, if they really mean it. If they’re talking about deficit reduction, if they’re willing to move, I think there’s a possibility,” Biden said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, while welcoming Biden’s comments as a sign of movement from the Obama administration, expressed skepticism.

“I would like to believe that the vice president’s comments suggest a real conversion,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement. “But given this administration’s record, it’s a real challenge to believe it’s anything other than a pre-election attempt to distract voters from the administration’s record -- and its oft-stated plan to sock America’s job creators with a massive new tax hike.”

Biden rejected the idea that the Republican Party is supportive of business, citing congressional Republicans’ opposition to investment tax credits that the Obama administration has proposed.

Among the proposals is an expansion of a 30 percent tax credit for clean-energy investments that was included in the economic stimulus.

Tax Credit

“How are the Republicans pro-business when they vote against tax stimulus for companies to build things here?” Biden said. “How can you be against a 30 percent tax credit if you come here and you build windmills?”

Biden also said education funding would suffer under a proposal made by House Republican leaders to cut non-security-related discretionary spending to its fiscal year 2008 level.

“They want to cut education by 20 percent,” Biden said. “What do they think the Chinese are doing? You think the Chinese are sitting around and saying we’re going to cut education?”

An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculated the Republican proposal would require a 21 percent cut in non-security-related discretionary spending, though aides to House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio have said the cuts wouldn’t necessarily fall equally across all programs.

Mortgage Defaults

Amid a slump in the housing market that has left many Americans with more mortgage debt than their homes are worth, Biden rejected the idea that it is acceptable for homeowners to engage in strategic defaults, in which they stop making payments on a loan they are capable of paying.

“I don’t think it’s ever really OK to do that,” Biden said. “Look, you make a deal when you sign a mortgage. Bank makes a deal, you make a deal. You meet the conditions.”

In a separate interview on “Political Capital,” U.S. Representative Darrell Issa accused Obama of “playing faster and looser with the rules” than former Republican President George W. Bush.

Issa, a Californian who’s poised to be chairman of the House oversight committee if Republicans regain the majority, made the comparison while defending earlier remarks made on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in which he called Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.”

Pentagon Contractors

As evidence, Issa pointed to a Pentagon practice, under Obama, of recruiting private contractors to work for the government with promises of better benefits and higher salaries. Issa said he plans to investigate it.

Issa singled out Biden for a failure to monitor spending, saying neither he nor oversight committee Chairman Edolphus Towns, a New York Democrat, has met with the vice president about the stimulus spending.

“Vice President Biden was supposed to be the great overseer of stimulus money,” said Issa, at the same time praising Earl Devaney, the inspector general for the Department of Interior overseeing the stimulus spending.

Jenny Thalheimer Rosenberg, an aide to Towns, said late Oct. 21 that Biden and the chairman met once at the White House to discuss stimulus oversight.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which handicaps congressional races, projects Republican gains of at least 40 seats in the House, enough to take control, and seven to nine in the Senate. The 100-member Senate currently has 57 Democrats and two independents who support the Democrats; Biden has the ability to break a tie.

On South Korea, Biden declined to assess the chances that Obama would return from his November trip to the Asian nation with a free-trade agreement ready to send to Congress.

“The president does want to have a free and fair trade agreement with Korea, and there’s a lot of work going on right now,” Biden said. “I don’t want to handicap it.”

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