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As hopes dim for bipartisan action in Congress this summer, President Barack Obama is calling on Republican lawmakers to cooperate while complaining that they have “gone off the rails” and urging Democrats to get over their complacency and vote them out of office.
The mixed messages aim to cast Obama as being above the fray even as he embarks on one of his most intense fundraising sprees for the Democratic Party.
“I’m not overly partisan,” he insisted Tuesday before 250 donors in a well-to-do lakefront neighborhood in Seattle. “The problem is not the Republican Party per se. The problem is this particular group that has gone kind off the rails.”
“The reason you are here today and the reason I’m here today is because I want a Congress that can actually get the job done,” he continued.
Obama’s fundraising — at least six events over three days in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles — comes in a week that represented the two extremes of his approach to Congress. On Tuesday he signed a rare piece of bipartisan job-training legislation and hailed it as a symbol of cooperation. On Monday he signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the base of sexual orientation, the kind of go-it-alone strategy he has made a keystone of his second term.
Still, the lack of compromise has not only halted progress on a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system but also raised doubts about legislation to help address an influx of young migrants at the border and to fix the nation’s veterans’ health programs.
Congress has until the end of next week to move on various fronts before it begins a monthlong recess. By the time lawmakers return in September, the midterm election’s fall campaign will be dominant.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner has placed the burden of bipartisanship on Obama, noting that the Republican-controlled House has passed numerous pieces of legislation that he says would boost the economy but have stalled in the Democratic Senate.
“If he’s serious, he’ll help us break the logjam in his party’s Senate and make more progress for Americans still asking ‘where are the jobs?'” Boehner said Tuesday.
With his travels coinciding with crises abroad in Ukraine and in Gaza, Obama made a last-minute decision to scrap an appearance with late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel. But there was still room for some glamour and glitz on the trip.
On Wednesday Obama was attending a Democratic National Committee event for about 450 donors at the Beverly Hills home of Shonda Rhimes, the producer of the Washington-set ABC drama “Scandal.” Kerry Washington, who plays the lead role on the show, is among the hosts. Tickets start at $1,000.
Earlier Wednesday, Obama was attending events for the House Majority PAC, a committee that can raise unlimited funds for House candidates, and another for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In Washington, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell faulted Obama for not being in town while Congress debates vital legislation.
“I’m not going to give him advice about how to allocate his time, but he’s certainly not spending the kind of time with the people he needs to pass legislation and convince people who have a vote, who were sent here to legislate, of the virtues of whatever position he has,” McConnell said.
White House officials say Obama is more than able to carry out all his duties and attend to crises while on the road.
“In terms of fundraising, it’s a responsibility that presidents in both parties for generations have been responsible for,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday. “And the president, like his predecessors, is interested in supporting members of his party who are on the ballot in 2014 and that’s part of what he’ll be doing over the course of this week.”
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