“I’m glad the White House is finally engaged on this. … This is something we could put Republicans on the defensive over,” one House Democratic aide said.
There was also Obama’s Labor Day speech in Detroit, during which the president took aim at Republicans.
“We’re going to see if Congressional Republicans will put country before party. We’ll give them a plan, and then we’ll say, ‘Do you want to create jobs? Then put our construction workers back to work rebuilding America. ... You say you’re the party of tax cuts? Well then, prove you’ll fight just as hard for tax cuts for middle-class families as you do for oil companies and the most affluent Americans,’” Obama said to applause, adding, “Show us what you got.”
That tone was what Democrats have been asking the White House for over the past several weeks, aides said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the speech “tremendous,” while its tenor pleased numerous House Democrats who have chafed at Obama’s penchant for avoiding bare-knuckle politics.
“He hit Republicans directly, which a lot of Members wanted to see,” a senior House Democratic aide said.
Democratic officials familiar with Obama’s speech made it clear on Wednesday that while Obama would use the address to make the case for the urgency of addressing joblessness and the economy, he would draw lines between himself and Republicans, albeit in a more nuanced way.
Obama will stress past bipartisan support for the proposals that he will lay out. He will also insist that deficit reduction and investment in infrastructure and other programs do not have to be mutually exclusive and will make a clear play to demonstrate his willingness to compromise.
Although a direct attack on Congressional Republicans during today’s speech is unlikely, Democrats hope the president will find ways to remain aggressive in his rhetoric while still avoiding looking too partisan.
Nevertheless, skepticism remains.
“We’ve seen flashes, but nothing sustained,” a senior Senate Democratic aide said Wednesday, explaining that the White House has largely avoided partisan rhetoric because it “turns off independents.”
Jessica Brady and David M. Drucker contributed to this report.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.