Freshman Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin accused President Obama of sitting on the sidelines Tuesday while Congress debates "wildly different" budget bills that are expected to fail.
"Our president has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for," Manchin, D-W.Va., said on the Senate floor.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer shot back, saying Obama is the "point person" for the budget negotiations.
"He and his people are fully engaged in this effort," Hoyer said. "Senator Manchin, I think, is incorrect."
But Manchin, who battled persistent criticism during his campaign that he was too close to the White House, had strong words for both parties.
He said Republicans' proposals were too sweeping and harsh, while Democrats' proposals don't do enough to address the deficit problem.
Instead of engaging in what he called "political theater," Manchin urged the president to take a more active role and bring both parties together toward a budget compromise.