Obama Versus The Senate

Obama Versus The Senate

President Obama used his first formal State of the Union address to repeatedly scold the upper chamber of Congress. Six times, he called attention to ways in which members of the Senate are slowing or stymieing his agenda.

On a jobs bill, he urged the Senate to follow the House's lead. On education reform, he demanded much the same. On comprehensive energy and climate change legislation, Obama noted that the House had completed its work and expressed his eagerness "to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate." On a commission to help reign in the debt, he chastised the Senate for voting down a bill and pledged to set one up through executive order.

Those were just the policy critiques. Obama also chastised "a few individual senators" for holding "well-qualified public servants" hostage over "pet projects or grudges" (see: DeMint, Jim or Nelson, Ben). And then he took aim at the Senate GOP: "If the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well."

Taken as a whole, the slights pleased some House Democrats who have long since passed the point of frustration with their compatriots on the other side of the Capitol.

"As you know, the Republicans are the opposition but the Senate is the enemy," Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y) told Politico shortly after the speech. "The Senate, I think, was properly chided... they're the meat locker at this point. And so I think it was very important that the president held that up."

Privately, of course, Senate aides were fuming at what they considered gratuitous chiding. "He might as well say, 'I hate the Senate,'" said one Senate Democratic aide. "Reid's probably not liking this one bit."

Others were more aggressive than defensive, noting that the president's message would hold a bit more weight if his own White House practiced what he preached.

"It's interesting that he's focused on transparency in Congress when the White House made a number of closed-door health care deals last spring," emailed another Senate aide. "I'm looking forward to the creation of WH-SPAN for future PhRMA meetings."

"The reason things aren't getting done is because there is an opposition party that is more inclined to call him a socialist and ask for his birth certificate than work with him to solve the problems facing this nation," the aide added. "Quite frankly, Obama has not been ambitious enough."

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