The Fine Print
In the 11th hour negotiations on Capitol Hill, away from the glare of the media and behind closed doors, there are high-level Congressional staffers working to close the deal. In many of the nation’s biggest legislative crises in recent memory, Rohit Kumar has been at the table.
As the chief negotiator for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell during the Obama administration, Kumar has been so cunning in negotiating for Republican interests that an unnamed White House official recently characterized him as an “evil genius” to The Washington Post.
“I do think it was intended as a compliment and I don't know who said it," Kumar tells “The Fine Print.” “If a partisan Democrat calls a Republican evil, that's probably intended as a compliment. ... I don't like to characterize myself as evil, I certainly wouldn't characterize myself as a genius, but I have had some success in trying to help forge some of these deals.”
Kumar is now leaving his job on Capitol Hill to work in the private sector -- part of a trend of key Hill aides who’ve recently left government -- raising concern about Congress’ ability to accomplish its looming agenda when it returns from August recess.
But Kumar says he doesn’t share such a concern and wouldn’t have left if he did.
“With the departures you're seeing, I don’t think are reflective of the challenges that are to come and whether or not people think success is likely or unlikely,” Kumar says. “I think what you are seeing is a reflection of how difficult the last three years have been on staff and personnel in terms of going from one crisis moment to another.”
Asked about Congress’ upcoming agenda, and the rhetoric of some Republicans who have threatened a possible government shutdown, Kumar says he thinks a continuing resolution will be reached as a stopgap compromise to keep the government funded until a more long-term agreement is achieved.
“Even those that are advocating it have sort of signaled we don't really believe a shutdown is going to occur,” Kumar says. “We just think this is something worth fighting over, and we ought to be willing to threaten a shutdown in order to make the point that we really believe strongly in the views that we hold.”
Before his next job in the private sector, where he has accepted a job in the tax division of Price Waterhouse Coopers, Kumar is spending some time as a stay-at-home dad with his 3-year-old daughter. He says his training on the Hill has actually been helpful in this newest venture.
“You are trained early here that you really prefer not to say no to a senator. If … they're trying to get somewhere your job is to help them find a way to get there,” Kumar says. “With my 3 and a half year old, I have found more success rather than telling her no we can't do this, we can do it if the following conditions are met … all of that all for the prize of a piece of chocolate or whatever it is that she has asked for.”
For more of the interview with Kumar, and to hear his explanation for why everything seems to take until the 11th hour on Capitol Hill, check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”
ABC's Alexandra Dukakis, Freda Kahen Kashi, Tom Thornton, Ginny Vicario, and Bob Bramson contributed to this episode.
- Rohit Kumar
- Capitol Hill