With the midterm elections approaching, President Obama is finding that Democrats are increasingly opposing him on issues to better position themselves against challenges from the GOP, which many Washington insiders expect will take control of the Senate in November.
There are wide-ranging and variable issues on which Democrats are opposing Obama, whose coattails are getting shorter and shorter as his public opinion ratings drop to all-time lows.
For instance, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez has criticized the president for dragging his feet on Iran.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid slammed Obama right after last week’s State of the Union for the president’s position on a historic trade deal.
Incoming Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu is pushing Obama to approve the controversial Keystone pipeline, while outgoing Chairman Ron Wyden has pushed the president not to approve it.
Senate Democrats such as Louisiana’s Landrieu, Arkansas’ Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan of North Carolina are desperate to distance themselves from the still unpopular Obamacare, with Hagan citing a conflicting schedule as she avoided being seen with Obama when he visited her state last month, according to Time.com.
Even Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential heir apparent, is carefully differentiating her position on Iran with that of the administration. As she has urged her former Senate colleagues not to pass new sanctions, she is touting her toughness on Iran during her tenure in the president’s cabinet—giving the impression that she is tougher on the Islamic republic than her successor, John Kerry.
In a letter Clinton sent to the Senate last week, she subtly points to differences between her foreign policy outlook and that of the administration she served—even as she warned Congress of the ramifications of passing further sanctions, something the president bitterly opposes.
“It could rob us of the international high ground we worked so hard to reach, break the united international front we constructed, and in the long run, weaken the pressure on Iran by opening the door for other countries to chart a different course,” Clinton wrote, describing the result of further sanctions.
The pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), has backed off from trying to press Congress to pass more sanctions, not wishing to engage anymore in a battle with the White House. According to a story in the New York Times, Aipac has stopped pressuring Senate Democrats to vote for the bill.
“Some of us see the object as being to target Iran,” Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Times. “We’re not out there to target the president; we’re out there to target Iran.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a staunch supporter of Israel, now says the Senate should hold off on a vote to give Obama breathing room for diplomacy.
“There’s been an unquestionable, undeniable shift in the perception of national security,” Blumenthal said. “I’m sensitive to the feelings, the resistance, the aversion of the general public to any kind of American military engagement.”
Showing that the president still has some support in Congress, yesterday 70 House Democrats sent Obama a letter backing his diplomatic efforts and opposing new sanctions.