Last month, your correspondent penned an article for the print version of Defense News that somewhat boldly declared the Senate’s “3 Amigos Are Back.”
GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire were riding high, having just forced the White House into coughing up what Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress said was perhaps an unprecedented level of detail about a president’s actions before and after an attack on U.S. government personnel. And they led the charge in roughing up President Barack Obama’s choice for defense secretary, the since-confirmed Chuck Hagel.
But were the Amigos all the way the back?
After all, sources and analysts felt their influence had significantly faded during the 112th Congress. Your correspondent remembers a trip back to his native homeland a few years ago when one skeptic of all things Washington quipped: “Let me know when you have dinner with the president.”
Several weeks since our piece was published, the Amigos did just that. McCain, Graham and Ayotte were among a small list of GOP senators with whom Obama and the White have dubbed the “caucus of common sense.” The goal is to work with these senators to get the ball moving on Obama’s second-term goals — including a key piece of legislation for the defense sector: A ‘big deal’ fiscal pacakge that would undo the $500 billion, decade-spanning sequestration cuts.
Also attending the dinner at Washington’s posh Jefferson Hotel were GOP Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Dan Coats of Indiana, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Hoeven of North Dakota and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.
McCain and Graham also met privately last week with Obama. The Amigos have the ear of the president. They are indeed back.