Skip to comments.White House kept Democratic senators hanging on phone (relations with RAT leaders deteriorating)
Posted on 10/04/2011 3:59:11 AM PDT by Libloather
White House kept Democratic senators hanging on phone
By Alexander Bolton - 10/04/11 05:30 AM ET
President Obamas relations with Senate Democratic leaders are deteriorating along with his poll numbers.
With Obamas approval ratings at record lows and the 2012 electoral map favoring Senate Republicans, the president and Senate Democrats are, in many ways, on divergent paths. Vulnerable Democrats from red states see Obama as impeding their chances of winning reelection, while the president often seems aloof to their concerns.
Obama, focused on winning a second term, has distanced himself from Congress altogether, at times not making the distinction between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
There have been recent flare-ups between the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his deputies, 13 months before the 2012 elections, when control of the Senate is up for grabs.
The proximate causes of friction can seem slight, such as a recent breach of protocol, which left Senate Democratic leaders grumbling.
Obama left his partys top senators, who had assembled for a conference call, hanging on the phone for nearly 20 minutes before National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling came on the line with a seemingly vague notion of what the call was supposed to be about, Democratic sources said.
The White House and Reids office did not comment for this article.
Reid has been Obamas most important ally in Congress, but the relationship has never been particularly affectionate, even though Reid was one of Obamas first Senate colleagues to privately urge him to run for president.
Obama and Reid speak frequently on the phone, but the conversations can be terse. One Democratic source quipped that its often a contest to guess who will hang up on the other first. Reid, as it turns out, doesnt have a habit of saying goodbye when he ends a call.
The White House has had to rely on Reid because, unlike former President Clinton, Obama has little appetite for regularly calling Democratic lawmakers.
I think one of the problems with the White House is that its been too set apart. Its been too Chicago-centric, and it needs to get out, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Clinton didnt just talk to four leaders, he picked up the phone and he kind of said, I really need your vote on this.
While Obama has personally leaned on members for their votes on controversial bills, House and Senate Democrats have been frustrated with the White Houses communication.
Senate Democrats note that Reid has been Obamas faithful soldier since the start of his presidency. White House officials view Reid as easier to work with than House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).
Reid made a huge contribution to Obamas legacy by uniting all 60 members of his conference in 2010 to pass healthcare reform, despite misgivings from liberals and centrists alike.
But as Democratic lawmakers near a tough election, rank-and-file members feel less inclined to stand close to Obama.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who is seeking a second term in 2012, said she would not join Obama for a public appearance in Missouri on Tuesday, citing the Senates busy schedule.
One Democratic aide, whose boss is facing reelection in a swing state, said of Obama: There are no coattails.
Republicans will capture control of the Senate if they net four seats in 2012 (three if Obama loses). The map favors the GOP; Democrats are defending 23 seats, Republicans only 10.
In a pointed show of independence, Reid scheduled a vote Monday to take up legislation addressing Chinese currency manipulation, which the administration does not support. The leader has put two of the presidents priorities, free-trade agreements and a $447 billion jobs package, on the backburner to deal first with China.
Reid has pronounced himself not a big fan of free trade agreements, despite Obamas stated goal to double American exports by 2014. The majority leader pointed out that no Democratic senator is completely happy with Obamas jobs package, though he has promised to vote on it.
Yet Reid has pushed back against Obama before.
Shortly after the 2008 election, which consolidated Democratic power in Washington, Reid told The Hill, I dont work for Obama.
In January, Reid panned Obamas call in the State of the Union address to eliminate earmarks. Reid said Obama was absolutely wrong and should back off.
Reids allies defend these tussles as the acts of an institutionalist who believes in the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.
Hes an institutionalist at heart and believes very strongly in separation of powers. While hes the presidents strongest ally, he has to do what he needs to do to represent constituents in Nevada and the Democratic caucus as a whole, said Jim Manley, a former senior aide to Reid.
Reids insistence on giving priority to the China legislation stems less from his belief in congressional prerogatives. Its a simple calculation that the political needs of his caucus are diverging from the presidents.
While Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are more concerned about keeping China appeased as a creditor, Reids focus is on keeping his majority. That will require the reelection of Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and/or Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), three vulnerable incumbents who would be helped by Senate passage of the currency bill.
It would be a real deliverable to the constituents of Midwestern senators, said a Senate Democratic aide.
Democratic aides claim that tensions between Obama and Senate Democrats have eased in recent days and both sides are more unified after Reid and the caucus gave the president and his advisers an earful.
Senators were growing increasingly irritated over Obamas unwillingness to take Republicans on for blocking their jobs agenda. Obama this summer often scolded Congress without drawing a distinction between Democrats and Republicans.
In a conversation after Labor Day, Reid told Obama that he needed to take a tougher tone with Republicans.
I told the president when I talked to him yesterday that I thought his speech in Michigan I watched parts of that on [PBSs] NewsHour, and I thought it was tremendous, and I hope he keeps that same pattern of speaking, Reid later said of the conversation.
Many House and Senate Democrats felt abandoned when the president put Medicare and Social Security cuts on the table during his July negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Reid was furious when The New York Times reported a deal was imminent while Democratic senators were left in the dark.
Im the Senate majority leader why dont I know about this deal? Reid demanded of White House budget director Jack Lew as he walked into a meeting with Senate Democrats that same day.
Lew denied a deal had been struck, though White House officials the next day said a bipartisan agreement had nearly been reached with Boehner.
Barry hates democrats too!
The Dems are so dumb. Obama really objects to the whole idea of having to share power with the other branches of government; in fact, he objects to their existence.
He’s the king, after all...isn’t he? Isn’t that what being US president means? (Maybe only to somebody brought up in Indonesia...)
Anything that makes that FREAK Harry Reid mad is almost OK with me.
“Obama left his partys top senators, who had assembled for a conference call, hanging on the phone for nearly 20 minutes before National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling came on the line with a seemingly vague notion of what the call was supposed to be about, Democratic sources said. “
what is wrong with this guy? Is he a solipsist or something?
Whatever the reason behind Obama's reluctance to call lawmakers, it may have been the one characteristic that saved this nation.
If Obama was more like Clinton (persuasive, engaging, etc) he would have single-payer healthcare, card check, and carbon-taxes in place through legislation.
Obama's weakness saved this nation from itself --- further proof that we still have divine grace.
I think one of the problems with the White House is that its been too set apart. Its been too Chicago-centric, and it needs to get out.
Obama left his partys top senators, who had assembled for a conference call, hanging on the phone for nearly 20 minutes...
Reminds me of a “Demotivational” poster with the title:
MEETINGS-None of us is as dumb as all of us.
The leader has put two of the presidents priorities, free-trade agreements and a $447 billion jobs package, on the backburner to deal first with China.
Senators were growing increasingly irritated over Obamas unwillingness to take Republicans on for blocking their jobs agenda.
Huh? The contradiction in the two sentences SCREAMS of hypocrisy.
AirClaire knows she's toast next year so I don't think this will help.
On a side note, the Cards/Phillies game starts at 4pm today. zero is expected to be at a fundraiser in the Renassaince Hotel at 5. Traffic is gonna be a beetch. How much you want to bet he goes to the game for a while after the fundraiser?
I hope he does. Anyone remember the reception he got LAST time he was at a Cardinals game?
(Hint: Fox turned down the live audio feed.)
Wasn’t Harry Reid one of the people who signed off on Obama’s eligibility?
The rats brought him to the dance, so now they complain because they have to wait for his attention? Racists...
The king doesn't talk to silly peons.
Sounds like the chapter “Good-Guy/Bad Guy” from an old political play book to me.
If Obama wins in 2012 Harry will be there fetching O’s water.
McCackle is toast.
1. First of all, the Senate is GONE for the Dems. Bob Beckel said so on Fox last month. GOP may end up with 55 Senators.
2. Obama is sucking up ALL the campaign cash...which is annoying Dems.
3. If you think 2012 is bad for the Senate Dems..look at who's up in 2014..20 Dems and 13 GOP..there are at least 5-6 definite GOP gains here..the GOP will have a filibuster proof 60 vote majority in 2014
3. Unlike the House, where Pelosi ran after losing the majority, no way will the Dems let Reid run for minority leader. He'll be able to use his wife's recent illness as cover for giving up the post. Durbin and Schumer want it, and it will be a steel-cage match in the caucus room.
The 2012 Dem caucus will be smaller, and much more liberal..hard left..
The authors quote Reid as saying privately that Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his "light-skinned" appearance and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Perhaps Obama is now keeping Reid under his thumb partly in retribution.
This is all a ruse. Obama wants the general public to think that he and congress are on different paths. Remember, their polls show congress with a 17% approval rating. He’s trying to tie into that discontent by becoming anti-congress.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.