The Wall Street Journal on April 24, 2013 quoted Peter Peyser in an article entitled “President’s Party Frets over his Powers of Persuasion.” Also quoted by name in the article are Sens John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE), former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and political consultant Joe Trippi. Below is copyrighted article from The Wall Street Journal. Or click on http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323551004578441173825505376.html for the article.
President’s Party Frets About His Powers of Persuasion
Unnerved by the defeat of the gun bill, some Democrats are growing pessimistic that President Barack Obama can muster the votes needed to pass large parts of his second-term agenda, unless voters change the makeup of Congress in the 2014 election.
Democratic strategists, lobbyists and some Capitol Hill aides see last week’s defeat of the gun-bill amendments as a worrisome sign that Mr. Obama hasn’t found a way to bridge the partisan divide in Congress—or even that he has a sufficiently firm hold on the more conservative members of his own party.
Mr. Obama said he hasn’t given up on widening background checks for gun purchasers, an idea that won majority support in the Senate last week but fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a promised GOP-led filibuster. He also is seeking to raise the minimum wage, boost spending on roads and bridges, expand early childhood education and reach what he calls a “grand bargain” to cut deficits while making adjustments to Social Security, Medicare and the tax code.
A central element of his agenda is a proposal to overhaul the immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. Democrats believe that measure stands the best chance of passing, largely because Republicans worry that they risk alienating Hispanic voters should they scuttle the bill.
Yet following the defeat of the gun legislation, some Democrats are skeptical. “There’s a possibility that we get immigration reform,” said Joe Trippi, who was national campaign manager for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid. “But even that could go the way of gun control, where we feel like we’ve got a compromise—we feel really close—but it doesn’t quite happen.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) said his perspective was colored by the failure of the gun proposal. “Given the disappointing outcome…I am cautious about predicting a positive outcome for any legislation this year,” he said, though he noted there might be bipartisan support for some manufacturing initiatives.
Some Democrats wondered whether Mr. Obama could have done more arm-twisting to convince four Senate Democrats from GOP-leaning states who voted against the background-check amendment, and perhaps pick up another Republican or two. The president “still doesn’t get in there and work with his own guys as well as he should,” said Ed Rendell, a former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania.
While the White House is renewing its outreach to lawmakers, including Republicans, some believe the overtures feel thin—driven by pressing legislative deadlines. “Don’t talk to me when it’s all out there. Call me initially and ask, ‘What can we work on?’ ” said a GOP senator.
A senior White House official said Mr. Obama “has used every tool in his toolbox to try to advance his agenda. And that includes meeting with, talking with, dining with and negotiating with lawmakers of both parties.”
The official said Mr. Obama also is governing in a very different time than former Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was well known for bending the will of Congress. Comparing the two misses “the fact that LBJ had one of the largest Democratic majorities in history and that every lawmakers whose arm was twisted was a member of his own party,” the official said.
As a candidate for re-election, Mr. Obama predicted that the Republican “fever” might break once the campaign was over. Now, though, some Democrats are looking to the next election to break the gridlock.
Peter Peyser, a longtime Democratic lobbyist, predicted the immigration bill would succeed, but added: “We need another election that moves the needle even further in the direction of the president’s policies.” Democrats would need to retain their majority in the Senate and pick up 17 House seats in 2014 to win back control of Congress.
The immigration bill has the backing of four prominent Republicans and a host of business and labor groups. Democratic strategists say that gives cover to Republicans who might want to support the bill but worry about being singled out by conservative activist groups and voters who oppose the bill.
Mr. Obama can ill afford to see the bill falter, Democrats say. “If he can’t pass immigration, I don’t think he can count on getting anything major done for the rest of his term,” a Senate Democratic leadership aide said.
Mr. Obama planned to host a White House dinner Tuesday for all 20 women senators. He has already held three dinners with a total of 36 senators.
“It establishes an environment and an atmosphere where you can have conversations with each other,” Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said of the dinners. “Every time I’ve seen something succeed, it’s begun through conversations and exchanging ideas.”
But the White House also believes that, in the end, the public will force change, demanding tighter gun laws and other changes lawmakers won’t be able to ignore. “The way to have real change in this country is to engage the American people and have them demand it,” a senior official said.