As House Democrats met privately to weigh the tax deal negotiated by the White House, an angry chant spontaneously rolled across the room.Talk about running over your own wounded and dying. As I have said recently, this kind of behavior on Obama's part is engendering tremendous ill-will among his own party and base. No wonder he picked the mafioso (metaphorically speaking) Rahm Emmanuel as his chief of staff. Apparently, that's the way Obama thinks as well.
“Just say no, just say no,” rebellious lawmakers cried. Vulgar words were aimed at President Obama. Incensed members spoiled for a fight.
The fury coursing through the meeting last Thursday in the basement of the Capitol was just the latest manifestation of the foul mood of House and Senate Democrats as they suffer through the final days of the 111th Congress, watching their power ebb while scores of them cast their last votes.
Many are having difficulty adjusting to their abruptly changed circumstances just two years after a triumphant inauguration of a new president who sealed Democratic hegemony over Washington. Deepening the wound is the fact that Democrats are still in charge, yet the White House struck its tax deal mainly with Senate Republicans.
And, incredulous Democrats say, the administration made a bad bargain even as it left fellow Democrats out of the loop.
“People are just baffled that the administration couldn’t cut a better deal,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and party leader who says the White House got taken in the tax talks.
Other Democrats and party strategists say the antipathy goes much deeper than simple unrest over the proposal to extend lower tax rates to the most affluent Americans and give up on a core Democratic belief.
House Democrats in particular feel betrayed. From their perspective, they took extraordinarily tough votes in 2009 and 2010 to advance the new president’s sweeping agenda and suffered accordingly in the election. Then he immediately turned around and did business with Republicans before those defeated in November had even vacated their Washington apartments.
While Democrats held on to the Senate, the sentiment is not much different across the Rotunda, though Democratic senators appear more resigned to the compromise on taxes.
Particularly galling to Senate Democrats who have fumed privately en masse is that through Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the White House made its deal with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader who has tied Democrats in knots for two years with his determined resistance to most legislation. In effect, they see the agreement as rewarding Mr. McConnell’s recalcitrance.
Adding insult to injury, some Congressional Democrats suggest, the White House was not completely upfront with them about how far along negotiations were with the Republicans last Monday in the hours before the deal was announced. Democrats said they had been under the impression that the parameters were not firmly set and that they could still influence the outcome. Yet within a few hours, Mr. Obama appeared in public to lay out the framework of a done deal.
Rank-and-file Democrats now believe a set of ultimately irrelevant negotiations was taking place with a bipartisan cast of House members and senators while more important talks were going on between the White House and Senate Republicans.
One top Democratic leader said that the party was no stranger to losing and that it had managed to cope with defeats like that of Senator John Kerry to President George W. Bush in 2004. But it was not as if they were being tossed from the White House. And they felt then that the party was on the rise.
But at the moment, a resurrection of Congressional Democrats seems distant, the idea of recapturing the House in two years is a long shot, and the party is bracing for serious electoral trouble in the 2012 Senate races.
And this year’s loss involves relinquishing something very big — the hard-won control of the House. Clearly, it hurts.
“We only had it for four years,” one senior Democrat lamented. “It took so long to get it back, and now it is all gone.”
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
A Lot of Really Upset Democrats
As the NYT's reports, the Democratic anger with Obama was not just taxes: