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President Barack Obama has pivoted back to playing hardball with Republicans after a spring spent attempting to woo Senate Republicans over collegial dinners and White House visits.
With GOP lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol bringing him heat over a variety of administration missteps and scandals, the president seems to have made a calculated decision to go on offense on judges, on student loans and with fresh veto threats on appropriations bills.
Last week, President Barack Obama used the bully pulpit to lash Republicans over what he said was an unacceptable plan to prevent student loan rates from going up in July. Monday night, the White House demanded a deal on the budget before the president would sign any of the annual spending bills wending their way through the House. And on Tuesday, he appeared in the Rose Garden to press the case for confirming three D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominees, in what Republicans view as a shift from an earlier “charm offensive.”
That effort was aimed at GOP policymakers such as Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, hoping to thaw the gridlock and achieve a grand bargain on the budget this summer. But Alexander and other Republicans say the current tactics being employed by the administration threaten to wipe out the gains Obama made with them earlier this year.
“I preferred it when he sat down for dinner with Republicans and said, ‘How can we fix the debt?’ I prefer it when he sits down with eight Republicans and Democrats and says how can we fix our immigration system. I don’t like it when they invent crises as a way of bullying senators, and it won’t be productive for him or it won’t be productive for the country,” Alexander told reporters.
“There’s no basis for the president inventing these crises — it’s unpresidential. It’s embarrassing to me,” an unusually agitated Alexander said. “Why doesn’t he fire his campaign manager and put his chief of staff in charge, and start fixing the debt and dealing with immigration and quit inventing crises because he’s losing any capacity he’s going to have for Republican support for important issues by these kind of tactics, and that includes me.”
However, the White House’s efforts to increase bipartisanship have failed so far to produce movement on a broad budget agreement or other issues, leading to frustration in the White House and among Democrats on Capitol Hill.