Obama Frustrates Congressional Democrats

Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 07:01 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Democrats in Congress complain that President Barack Obama is personally distant and politically aloof and that he is endangering chances that his administration's agenda can be implemented in the remaining months of his term, The New York Times reported.

The lawmakers' open disenchantment with Obama is reflected by how hard it is to identify a senator who feels personally close to the president. Obama is cut off from Democrats on Capitol Hill with senators saying they have no real relationship with the president. Out of 12 Democratic senators invited to a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House only one came, the Times reported.

Obama first campaigned for president in 2008 as a Washington outsider with no particular ties to the Democratic political establishment. He generally refused to appear on the same stage with Democratic lawmakers for fear congressional unpopularity would harm his election chances. That policy has largely continued into Obama's presidency, according to the newspaper.

"The White House has something in common with the rest of America, and that is disdain for Congress," said Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, an early Obama supporter, according to the Times. "It is hard to blame them."

The president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are not close. Reid's Senate Majority PAC, which raises money to help Democrats retain control of the upper chamber, has not been able to get Obama to participate in its fundraising appearances, the Times reported.

The White House challenged the notion that Obama is disengaged from Democrats on Capitol Hill. He has held 18 meetings in 2014 with groups of lawmakers, hosted four social events, numerous bill signing ceremonies, in addition to individual calls and personal conversations. "We will continue to work in close partnership with the Democratic leadership throughout the fall," White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage told the Times.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House minority whip, said Obama is less outgoing and more solitary compared to Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. Even if Obama spends less personal time with members the "president has reached out as much as any president in my view, been open to compromise as much as any I've observed," Hoyer said, according to the Times.

McCaskill said the president is not into engaging in ingratiating small talk. There is no point in waiting for Obama to "transform…into a Lyndon B. Johnson late in his second term," she told the Times.

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