A House Democratic leadership aide said a number of liberal lawmakers “totally agree” with Weiner’s take on the issue but can’t be as vocal about it because, without Obama firmly against upper-income tax cuts, they would take heat back in their districts.
“If they had some cover from the White House, they could have a better debate,” the aide said.
Liberal activists have launched attacks on Obama over the issue. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which boasts a membership of 650,000, sent an e-mail to supporters Monday that quotes former Obama campaign staffers expressing frustration with the president.
“If he capitulates on this, there really is no point in voting for him in 2012. The difference between voting for a Republican and voting for someone whose default negotiation strategy is rolling over and dying whenever the Republican Party says mean things is marginal,” Daniel Roche, a 2008 Nevada field organizer for Obama, says in the e-mail.
Only in recent days has Obama been talking openly about the need to compromise on the issue. His signature argument has shifted from opposing tax cuts for the wealthy to ensuring that middle-class tax cuts do not expire.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re coming up with a solution, even if it’s not 100 percent of what I want or what the Republicans want,” the president said Monday in North Carolina.
Some senior Democratic aides defended Obama for staying focused on keeping the middle-class tax cuts in effect.
“I think that it’s about time we get used to the fact when the votes aren’t there in the Senate for what we want to do, we have to compromise. And on this, it is better to compromise before we get blamed for raising taxes for every American,” a senior House Democratic aide said.
A senior Senate Democratic aide was more pointed when asked whether the Democratic base should get used to being on the losing side of deals cut in the next Congress: “Unfortunately, yes.”
The scuffle over taxes isn’t the first time that Obama has upset liberals since the Nov. 2 elections that handed Republicans firm control of the House and an expanded minority in the Senate. He drew fire from critics of free-trade deals last week when he announced a final deal on the South Korea trade pact and signaled that he will send the Bush-era agreement to Congress in the coming months. The president also angered liberals by announcing a federal pay freeze for the next year that will save the government $2 billion.
The message being sent by the pay freeze is that the deficit is “caused by the government, which is not true, and that we can cut our way out of this and that we ought to cut our way out,” one liberal House Member said. “It’s contributing to the wrong narrative ... and giving a signal to the private sector, which is only too eager to follow this.”
All that’s left from here, this lawmaker added, is seeing how Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to sell the tax deal to the Caucus tonight.