Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key Issues

Image: Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key Issues From left: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Martin Heinrich

Monday, 03 Feb 2014 09:37 AM

By Melanie Batley

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A growing number of Senate Democrats are speaking out publicly against a range of President Barack Obama's policies in an attempt to distance themselves from the increasingly unpopular president in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections.

According to Politico, the lawmakers appear to have become unusually comfortable with criticizing the president, particularly since the State of the Union Address.

"You had two or three Democrats in the Senate who made statements after the president's State of the Union speech that wouldn't have been written any different if they had been written by the [National] Republican Senatorial Committee," Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt told Politico.

Until recently, criticism of the president was concentrated among vulnerable red state Democrats, but now others are becoming vocal in their dissent on a range of issues including energy policy, Obamacare, the Nation Security Agency surveillance programs, and the Keystone XL pipeline.

For example, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who isn't up for re-election until 2018, has taken issue with Obama's insistence in his State of the Union Address that he would bypass Congress whenever necessary to advance his agenda.

"I don't think that's what he meant. I swear to God I don't," Manchin said in an interview with Politico. "Could he have picked these words better? I would have thought he could have, I would have hoped he would have. But it came out offensive to a lot of people."

Manchin is also part of a faction in the Senate that would approve construction of the Keystone pipeline, a group that is also critical of the administration's positions on coal and energy exports.

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, another Democrat who isn't up for re-election until 2018, has called Obama's energy policies "schizophrenic."

Meanwhile, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, a freshman, has been a persistent critic of the White House on NSA policy, according to Politico.

"I think the framers did an incredible job of finding the right balance, so, we've gotten away from that. And when we get back to that, my outspokenness will diminish," he said.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado have also been vocal about the need for changes to the NSA's surveillance programs.

A number of Democrats have for months been attempting to distance themselves from the president on Obamacare, aware that the GOP is likely to highlight the program's failures throughout the 2014 campaign. But as Blunt put it, it may be an uphill battle.

"The White House and the Senate leadership understand the need of senators in states where the president is not popular to differentiate themselves from the president when they can," Blunt told Politico.

"On the healthcare bill, it's going to be particularly difficult because all of them voted for it, all of them supported it. And it's not going to get better between now and Election Day."

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