Democrats Complain of Aloof, Disengaged Obama

Monday, 04 Feb 2013 10:03 AM

By Lisa Barron

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President Barack Obama may have to reach out more to Democrats on Capitol Hill if he expects to win their support for his aggressive second-term agenda, reports Politico.

In an interviews with dozens of Democratic members of Congress and senior aides, Politico found many are frustrated and angered by what they perceive as the president’s disregard for cultivating relationships with his party colleagues.

This comes at a time when the president is preparing to take on everything from taxes and immigration reform to gun control and climate change, and needs Democratic backing to get legislation through Congress.

According to Politico, Democrats complain that they never hear from Obama personally and have not been to the White House since early on in his first term.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, for example, said there was more contact with the president when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was White House chief of staff.

He told Politico the president needs to be more engaged during this Congress.

“I think it could save time and make things work a little better,” he said.

Some Democrats believe Obama’s seeming indifference is due to his reticent nature, Politico reported. But others believe the president and his inner circle still hold a grudge about the initial outpouring of support from Hill Democrats for Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign.

The White House, meanwhile, says the president appreciates the support he received during his first term from congressional Democrats and is looking forward to a meeting on the Hill later this week with Democratic caucuses in both chambers.

But even that may not help smooth things over. For example, one Democrat told Politico that he left a recent meeting with his colleagues in Congress "astonished at the contempt they have for our president." This Democrat said it was made clear at the meeting that Obama would not get their support if he tried to cut spending on entitlements in budget negotiations with Republicans.

Democrats also appear to be upset by Obama’s new political outreach effort, Organizing for Action, a tax-exempt nonprofit that grew out of his presidential campaign and was set up with the express purpose of promoting his second-term agenda.

Some members are dismayed over the president's decision earlier this month to appoint a little-known aide to the newly vacated post of congressional affairs adviser, passing over Ed Pagano, the White House Senate liaison, who is apparently well-liked in the upper chamber, Politico reported.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper suggested to Politico that Obama "would be well-advised to strengthen" his personal relationships on the Hill.

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