It’s official: Barack Obama has lost control of his party. In recent weeks, both his congressional allies and the once-fawning political press have begun openly bucking the White House’s cautious approach to the change it says it believes in. That discontent rose this week to a fevered pitch. And now, even the Congressional Black Caucus has piled on. As BUZZ noted, the Washington Post broke things down Friday in a scathing overview of the revolt afoot in Washington’s Democratic circles.
President Obama's allies in the Congressional Black Caucus, exasperated by the administration's handling of the economy, unexpectedly blocked one his top priorities, using a legislative maneuver to postpone the approval of financial reform legislation by a key House committee.
The House committee had been set to vote to send the final piece of its regulatory reform package to the House floor after months of debate. That is, until the committee's chairman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), told a shocked committee room that passage of the bill would be delayed until Dec. 1 because the Congressional Black Caucus wanted the administration to do more to help African American communities suffering in the economic decline.
Frank told committee members that black lawmakers were "frustrated by the response to the economic situation by the administration." He said the caucus had no issues with the legislation itself. "They want obviously to continue to have some bargaining power with the administration," he said after the hearing.
Nice to see some spunk out of the CBC—guess that’s what you get with genuinely progressive leadership like Rep. Barbara Lee. Frank had brokered conversations between CBC, Rahm Emanuel and Tiny Tim Geithner to discuss the White House’s economic posture. Guess that didn’t go so well. But Rep. Maxine Waters, who sits on Frank's Financial Services Committee, offered only a curt, written statement on the matter:
“The recession has created a unique systemic risk that threatens all parts of the African-American community, including the poor and middle class," Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) said in a written statement. “I have always been committed to addressing that risk and will continue to do so. This is a critical issue for my constituents.”
Translation: If Max Baucus and Co. can wild out with impunity on behalf of industry, then reform-minded reps are gonna buck up from now on, too. Obama’s storied efforts to lure Republicans and conservative Democrats into responsible governance has succeeded only in making enemies of his friends.
CBC’s not alone on this, and is clearly acting in concert with congressional leadership. First Harry Reid went off script and snatched control of the health care debate with his opt-out public option idea—which the White House fought to the last minute, since it meant stepping on the toes of Obama’s Republican BFF Olympia Snowe. Then Reid invited Bill Clinton talk to the caucus about the bill—um, that’s the former, not current party leader. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi has let her independent side loose, announcing a major jobs bill push and letting it be known (via blind House “leadership” sources) that the White House is, once again, not on board. Sensing a theme?
Politico summed up the sentiment of congressional Dems this way:
The wave of Democratic grief had been building privately for months, but Hill Democrats had held back on publicly criticizing the Obama presidency. But now, Democrats who see that their economic agenda seems to be flailing and fear getting wiped out in the 2010 congressional elections are going public with a burst of criticism, and much of it has poured out in the past 48 hours.
The window for real, meaningful reform is fast closing. America voted overwhelmingly for actual change, but the White House has simply not been willing to lead us toward it, particularly on the economy. No shock, then, that Gallop says Obama’s approval rating just dipped below 50 percent for the first time. People are tired of conceding defeat to the people who lost the election. So are congressional Dems, it seems. And their message to the president seems clear: Lead, follow or get out of the way.