Sept. 19, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Obama Lobbying Pays Off

Boyd said health care was a main topic of discussion at the reception, which also hosted Democratic leaders including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), but he added that lobbying efforts were wasted on him since his support on any issue is based on what is in the actual bill.

The real benefit to attending White House parties is that they “might give you a chance to talk about some of the things you like and some of the things you don’t like,” he said.

Obama’s charm offensive appears to have had major sway with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Several Hispanic lawmakers were hedging in their support for health care over its provisions aimed at restricting benefits for illegal immigrants. But after Obama scrambled to hold two meetings at the White House last week — one with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to discuss their efforts to advance immigration reform legislation, and another with the CHC — the caucus publicly offered a unified voice of support for health care.

One CHC Member said Obama ultimately won over the group’s support for the overhaul by promising to push harder for immigration reform this year. “That was the understanding,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said.

But Obama’s willingness to get personally involved in lobbying lawmakers hasn’t always paid off.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) left a private meeting with Obama on Thursday still unconvinced that he would support the health care bill. “I must be either thick-skinned or thick-skulled” for not being won over by Obama’s persuasiveness, Lynch said.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who wavered on health care and was invited to several White House events in the past month, said Friday that he had been ignoring phone calls from the White House that were presumably about his vote.

“With all due respect to the president, I’ve got to look at what’s best in my district. Whether he’s popular or not popular in my district, I don’t want to get into that,” Cuellar said. “At the end of the day, when we take a vote, he’s not going to be out there supporting me running my election.”

Lawmakers in competitive districts also sought to distance themselves from private conversations that they have had with Obama.

Two key targets of Obama’s lobbying on health care — Murphy and Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (La.), the only Republican who voted for health care in the fall — declined to comment on the president’s outreach.

Murphy said he “wasn’t able to make it” to Obama’s St. Patrick’s Day reception and would leave it to “other people” to weigh in how much personal sway the president has had with them.

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