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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Departure of GOP’s Indian American Rohit Kumar could imperil debt-limit talks

Washington -- The departure of a key "indispensable" Indian-American aide to a Republican Senate leader may imperil talks to limit the national debt and avoid a possible government shut down next month, according to a media report.

Friday was the last day on Capitol Hill for 39-year-old Rohit Kumar, who has played a key role in warding off disaster as the chief negotiator for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Washington Post reported.
"Kumar is the guy who came up with a way to sell a $700 billion bank bailout to anxious lawmakers in 2008 when the financial system was collapsing.
"And he's the guy who figured out how to let conservatives raise the debt limit while voting against it in 2011 when the nation was days away from default," the influential US daily said.
"As Congress braces for a possible government shutdown next month and the fresh danger of default before Thanksgiving (Nov 28), the departure of Kumar is a huge loss," for the Republican party, which has seen a "surprising exodus of senior" staffers in recent days, it said.
Kumar, a 13-year veteran from Dallas who got his start with former Republican senator Phil Gramm has since served a series of Republican Senate leaders.
He has been at McConnell's side through every major fiscal deal since President Barack Obama took office, the Post noted.
He is taking time off to be a stay-at-home dad to his three-year-old daughter Kiera.
In a tribute on the Senate floor, McConnell called Kumar "indispensable", the rare person "who combines a brilliant mind for policy and a brilliant mind for politics in one package".
"A lot of senators will miss him every bit as much as I will," he added.
White House negotiators see the departures of Republican staffers as a bad sign, Post said.
According to the Post, one administration official, who dealt with Kumar during the fiscal-cliff talks, called him an "evil genius" whom the White House never trusted totally.
But he was viewed as a principled opponent who knew the policy, had "a nose for the deal" and was always genuinely trying to defuse the bomb du jour, it said.
According to the Post, as he packed up his desk this week, Kumar acknowledged that the long stalemate over debt limitation talks has been frustrating.
But he said the toll it has taken on his young family is driving his decision to leave, not the "perceived utility or futility" of the coming fight.
The debt drama has been particularly gruelling, he said. But the recent fiscal-cliff fight, however, was "the straw that broke the camel's back", Kumar said.

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