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Obama’s Aloof Behavior With GOP Could Hurt Agenda

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Several Republican Members have said the administration's outreach has diminished since President Barack Obama began gearing up for his re-election effort.

"I, too, kind of assumed there would be greater outreach there. But this administration is not known for reaching out on the legislative side," she said. "It's not just my observation. I talk with colleagues on the other side of the aisle who had expected perhaps a little more reach out because of the fact that the president used to serve with us in the Senate and the vice president used to serve with us here in the Senate."

Obama wooed Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) a lot early in his presidency, first to get her vote on the stimulus package and later seeking her vote for health care reform.

But he doesn't call anymore, and his team hasn't reached out much either, she said.

Snowe, who is up for re-election next year, said the Obama White House has the worst relationship with Congress of any of the six presidents with whom she's served.

"It's a dramatic difference. ... I don't expect the president every day to be calling me or somebody else. [But] I think what you do expect is to have a team that can work through the various issues ... and build a consensus," she said.

Snowe added, "I can understand him using the bully pulpit, you know, to enhance his position, but it can't be to the exclusion of ever working with the legislative branch."

The White House pushed back Friday against the criticism.

"The president and his administration are working tirelessly to create jobs and improve the economy and he welcomes Republican willingness to work with him to pass the American Jobs Act and extend and expand the payroll tax cut," White House spokeswoman Jamie Smith said.

Senior White House officials also say the president and his administration regularly engage with Members. And some who criticized Obama's lack of outreach have been to the White House this year, some of them multiple times.

The White House has repeatedly dismissed complaints, mostly from Republicans, about the president's near total lack of involvement in the failed super committee deliberations, and it has defended the president's weekly bashing of the GOP on their opposition to taxing millionaires to pay for job-creation legislation. Republicans shouldn't be "let off the hook" for blocking the payroll tax cut paid for by taxes on millionaires, Press Secretary Jay Carney said last week.

And allies such as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have blasted the GOP for walking out of negotiations with the White House three times earlier this year. Democrats generally say Republicans have no one but themselves to blame for getting the cold shoulder.

They point to McConnell's statement that defeating Obama was his top priority, and Democrats believe that the tougher approach is bearing fruit as Republicans splintered on the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits last week.

Snowe said there's blame to go around for this year's gridlock, but Obama deserves his share.

"You have to keep working at it. You know, you don't just give up," she said. "There's only one president."

Like Snowe, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) recalled getting wooed last year when he was a crucial swing vote, but he doesn't recall speaking to Obama this year — about the jobs bill or anything else.

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