House Democrats Frustrated by Silent Treatment From White House

Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 03:11 PM

By Melanie Batley

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House Democrats say they are unhappy that the White House is not communicating its policy strategy during a critical phase of the election cycle, making it difficult for them to defend the president from attacks by the GOP, The Hill reports. 

"It's hard for us to fathom; I mean, is it just lack of full staffing and resources? [Is it] professional commitment? Is it a disdain for the legislative branch? I mean, what is it?" asked Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"People like me want to be allies — I mean, I am an ally. So work with us, reach out to us; you know, we're not the enemy."

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, indicated that the concerns are part of a longstanding pattern of a lack of communication from the White House with lawmakers.

"Not being consulted ahead of time — that just makes people crazy," Grijalva said. "Let us know ahead of time. Call us in when you're developing something so we can give you our ground-level reality check about how this is going to work."

Virginia Rep. Jim Moran, meanwhile, used a football analogy to compare Obama with former President Bill Clinton, and suggested the president's communication style has made collaboration more difficult.

"Certainly, Bill Clinton saw us as his offensive line, and so he attended to the nurturing of his offensive line," Moran told The Hill. "And I don't think this president, this quarterback, invests all that much time and effort into the care and feeding of his offensive line.

"You can still win," Moran added. "It just makes it a little more difficult."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has defended the White House's communications operation, but nevertheless has urged the administration to improve its relationship with Congress amid widespread criticism.

"While I disagree with the characterization [that Obama is too aloof], if that is the impression people have, then communication has to be stepped up," she said during a July 22 appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," The Hill reported.

Others, however, say now is not the time to criticize the president and it's important instead to focus on unity.

Vermont Rep. Peter Welch told The Hill that critics "have to acknowledge" that Obama faces a Republican majority "hell-bent on defeating any initiative the president proposes."

"That's the reality that I think is much more a factor than how many times the president called us or reached out," Welch said, adding that there's "a certain element of congressional pride" that factors into the criticism of the president's communication style.

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