Several Democratic Senators, including Sen. Mary Landrieu, were unaware of which items are on the president's to-do list and expressed little interest in tackling them in the near future.
It fits on a Post-it note, but some lawmakers are still confused by what’s on President Barack Obama’s “to-do” list — and so far, neither chamber has scheduled a vote on any of the five items the president has urged them to tackle “right now.”
When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) outlined his agenda for the June work period this week, only one item from Obama’s to-do list made the cut — a business tax cut package. That’s the item most likely to win GOP support, given that Democrats at this point plan to follow the lead of House Republicans and simply borrow the money to pay for it.
Reid also mentioned a half a dozen items that aren’t on Obama’s list, although one — preventing the doubling of interest rates on student loans — is a separate White House priority.
Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has championed the tax cut measure, said he hopes they can take it up soon, provided they can find the time to do it.
Senate Democratic aides tried to minimize any talk of a rift with the White House, suggesting that they will eventually get to the to-do list. And the White House says it’s working to get votes.
But the biggest problem for the president’s agenda isn’t the usual partisan gridlock — it’s an unexpected surge in cooperation on a series of less-than-sexy bills, such as a Food and Drug Administration authorization package and postal reform. Rather than taking their cues from the White House, Senators in both parties have been pushing other priorities to the top of Reid’s agenda — whether it be a farm bill, garden-variety appropriations or renewing the flood insurance program.
In the meantime, several Senators confessed to Roll Call that they don’t know what is on the to-do list anyway, despite several speeches in which Obama has urged his followers to tweet, call, write and email lawmakers urging them to take it up.
“Didn’t we do some things he wanted us to do?” asked Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). “[Export-Import] Bank, that doesn’t count? That wasn’t on the to-do list?”
No. The president wanted that, too, but it’s not on the list.
“Do you have a copy of the to-do list?” Landrieu asked.
After a reporter told her what was on the list, she quipped, “We’re adding to that list by doing some great things.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.