The high-stakes budget showdown in Washington, which has the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders working to cut a major deficit-reduction deal before the federal government hits the debt ceiling, has put Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the spotlight. And it could have real implications for Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline's long-term political prospects.
Whitehouse, one of the leading liberals in the Senate, recently warned the Obama Administration in a front-page story in the New York Times that Congressional Democrats will not just accede to the sweeping cuts it seems to be negotiating with Republican leaders.
As I write, he is talking with reporters on a conference call about the importance of defending Social Security against the budget ax (UPDATE: here's Roll Call on what Senator Whitehouse and Senator Bernard Sanders said during that conference call, accusing the White House of shutting out Senate Democrats on budget negotiations and warning the president not to touch Social Security).
But if the debate means a bump in Whitehouse's national profile, it is Cicilline who may feel the greater impact in the long run.
For months, Congressional Democrats have been beating the drum about GOP threats to Medicare. And the issue was shaping up as the leading battle cry for the 2012 elections.
Democrats worry that a broad budget deal, including Medicare and Social Security reform, could rob them of a key campaign issue. And Cicilline has to be among the most concerned.
The former Providence mayor is vulnerable, after all, in the wake of the city's fiscal storm. And the advanced age of the Rhode Island electorate would make the "Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it" message particularly potent here.