In a high-profile speech on Tuesday dissecting Democrats' losses
in this month's midterm elections, Charles Schumer, the No. 3 Senate
Democrat, listed "a cascade of issues" botched by the White House,
starting with Obama's push for healthcare reforms soon after he took
office in 2009.
Later on Tuesday, the White House took the unusual step of publicly
pledging to veto a deal on tax breaks that Senate Democratic leader
Harry Reid was trying to hammer out with Republicans in the House of
"There is clearly a lot of unhappiness and a lot of mistrust that
exists between the president and his congressional party," said Ross
Baker, political scientist at Rutgers University.
Democrats will cede control of the Senate to Republicans in the New
Year after heavy losses in the Nov. 4 elections that also gave the
Republicans an increased majority in the House.
Obama, whose low approval ratings were seen as a drag on his party
in the elections, may see support waver from some Democrats on an
energy issue - the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from
Canada's oil sands to be processed on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Democrats
in states where voters want pipeline will face a dilemma over
whether to break ranks with Obama and back Republican legislation
aimed at forcing the project through.
Republicans will also try to thwart the executive action on
immigration that Obama announced last week and that grants temporary
relief from deportation for millions of immigrants who are living in
the United States without the right papers.
Several Democratic senators have been critical of Obama for taking
executive action rather than letting Congress take the lead on the
issue. If six or seven joined Republicans, they could block Obama's
action, forcing a veto.
In some ways, Schumer's remarks were typical of the kind of
"post-disaster syndrome" of finger-pointing common after election
losses, Baker said.
"Typically, when a political party has suffered an electoral
debacle, one of the first things they do is shoot the survivors," he
According to Schumer, the party lost because the White House messed
up on "a cascade of issues," starting with the healthcare reform
push in 2009, at a time when Americans were more preoccupied with
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Also on Schumer's list of White House errors: the rollout of
insurance marketplaces, fixing wait lists for veterans' hospitals,
dealing with the first case of Ebola in the United States, and even
security at the White House itself.
His remarks illustrated how some Democrats are trying to start to
move apart and away from Obama.
"At this point now, Obama is not running for president again," said
Matthew Green, associate professor of politics at the Catholic
University of America. "But Democrats in the Senate are, and they
want to get back the majority at some point. They are going to be
thinking about, what can we say and do to help ourselves in next
election cycle?" Green said.
Former Obama aides dismissed Schumer's comments as playing politics.
"Funny, I don't remember Chuck Schumer giving that advice when he
was privately and publicly championing the Affordable Care Act in
2010," said Jon Favreau, a former White House speechwriter, on
"So what exactly does Chuck Schumer believe was the error? Does he
believe that the goal of winning office is winning office?" said Jon
Lovett, another former Obama aide.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi also rebuked Schumer, saying in a
statement, "We come here to do a job, not keep a job."
(Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Emily Stephenson; Editing by
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