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What's really driving tensions between House Dems and White House? It's jobs, stupid!

By now you've read reams of stories about how House Dem leaders are smoking mad at the White House because Robert Gibbs suggested that Republicans could take back the House.

In a closed-door meeting yesterday, House Dems vented about their frustration. And it's true that they're angry with Gibbs for needlessly giving Republicans a recruiting and fundraising boon.

But there's a more important story here underlying these tensions. What's really driving the anger is that House Dem leaders feel like they've done a whole bunch of heavy lifting to pass jobs-related measures -- while the Senate and the White House have effectively dithered. And, crucially, it's House Democrats who are likely to pay the price at the polls this fall over this failure.

That's really what this story is about.

This isn't just true of jobs-creation. House Dems passed health reform far faster than the Senate did, and subsequently saw the progressive aspects of their effort junked. They passed climate change long ago, and are still waiting for the Senate to act. Same with financial regulatory reform, though that is all but certain to clear the Senate now.

But jobs is, politically speaking, the most important part of the story. The House passed an extension to unemployment benefits weeks ago, and have passed a host of other jobs-creation measures, too. But the Senate is stymied on jobs and unemployment. It's true that Republicans are blocking the unemployment extension. It's true that it's easier to pass legislation in the House, where the Dem majority is larger and the procedural obstacles are fewer.

But fairly or not, House leaders feel that the White House and Senate leaders could be doing more to force the issue -- and that Obama could be showing more urgency about jobs and unemployment and driving the Senate harder to take action.

Ultimately, the real irony is it's House Dems who will likely suffer the biggest losses this fall over the ongoing failure to act on this front. This is why Gibbs's suggestion that Republicans could take back the House was particularly galling for House Dem leaders.

Anyway, there's a bigger story here than just the sniping over this one Gibbs comment. House Dem leaders are meeting tonight with White House officials to air their grievances, and I'll bet you that White House advisers will get an earful, and not just about Gibbs.

By Greg Sargent  |  July 14, 2010; 3:02 PM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , Climate change , Financial reform , Health reform , House Dems , Senate Republicans  
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Next: Happy Hour Roundup


Jobs are what Americans want, the deficit is way down on the list. I don't know how to get it done, it seems the Senate runs a day late and a dollar, or brain cell, short when it comes to public opinion. Larry Summers is even talking about it today. Below is from Jon Walker.

"While collective deficit hysteria fully grips Washington, what the American people really care about is jobs and the economy. According to a new CBS News poll, 38 percent of Americans think the most important problem facing our country is the economy and jobs. Second is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at seven percent. Health care comes in third at about six percent, and all the way back in fourth place, with a mere five percent, is the budget deficit and national debt.

I have said it before, but since members of Congress are descending into highly destructive deficit insanity, it needs to be said again. The American people don’t really care about the deficit. They consider it to be an issue that should eventually get addressed but is a low priority right now. As common sense would dictate, with almost 10 percent official unemployment and a serious problem of long-term unemployment, what the American people care about is jobs."

Posted by: lmsinca | July 14, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse


"Ultimately, the real irony is it's House Dems who will likely suffer the biggest losses this fall over the ongoing failure to act on this front."

Two things:

1. That's not irony, and it's not even unexpected. The people who are the most in danger (House Dems) would be totally expected to be the ones most angered by the lack of effort from those that are "safer" (Senate/WH).

2. It should also be noted that between the 3, the House members are likely the most in tune with the public. They represent a much smaller segment of people, and can get a better picture of their own represented area...together they have a much better feel for what the public is feeling than the Senate or White House does.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 14, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

BBQ -- I mean it's ironic in the sense that House Dems are going to pay the biggest price for Senate/White House inaction...

...and I love that Walker thing, lmsinca. will link in roundup.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 14, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Greg, I'd love to see a post that combines your "GOP is getting rewarded for blocking effective governance" meme and the perspective from some active House Dems (not in leadership but still players in the party).

BBQ is exactly right that the Senate can afford to weather this bu the House cannot (on the Dem side). This is for purely structural reasons (an election every 2 years for them, and thus MUCH more sensitivity to constituency), but also because the House has a different perspective based on their role in the overall gov't.

I would like to see House members from the Dems getting together to make LOTS of noise about this.

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 14, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

@lms: "Jobs are what Americans want, the deficit is way down on the list."

I'm not so sure about that!

Pew: "Public's Wish List for Congress - Jobs and Deficit Reduction"

"The public overwhelmingly views the job situation as a major priority for Congress during the coming months. Fully 80% say it is very important for Congress to pass legislation to address the job situation...Somewhat fewer (70%) say it is very important for Congress to reduce the federal budget deficit."

Posted by: sbj3 | July 14, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the overall sentiment, just one quibble.

In a world in which only 18% of Dem voters think this election will be worse than average, there is far more upside than downside to Gibbs' comments.

Posted by: jbossch | July 14, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

sbj, different kind of poll, different results, one ranks the importance over other concerns in one question. The other asks separate questions, either way jobs win.

Posted by: lmsinca | July 14, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

This sounds fishy... I have a very hard time believing that Pelosi, et al, can't count to sixty as well as Reid or Obama. As they say, it's not rocket science, folks.

Posted by: converse | July 14, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

jbossch -- that was my initial reaction to Gibbs' quote, too! But House Dem insiders really are upset about it, and really believe it's going to help Republicans. I don't really get it.

and BG, you're on to something. House Dems have been privately talking about that problem, and are, understandably, furious about it.

re sbj's claim, it seems like it might be a good idea to round up ALL the polling on the deficit and see what it shows.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 14, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

It is sad that so few people are holding so many people hostage. I have said over and over again that the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for being so cruel. Buy they have no shame. You know when the Republicans had control of the Congress they would force things through that they wanted. But our Democrats need to grow some and start playing dirty too. We are hurting, Democrats stop being such wimps! The American people need your help. And what is up with Obama? Why isn't he kicking a#s and taking names?

Posted by: blisa6249 | July 14, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

And the deficit only ranks that high because of the billion or so that Pete Peterson has put into PR efforts to screw over the middle class.

Posted by: Calvin_Jones_and_the_13th_Apostle | July 14, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

You source Politico (ugh!) on this, in the same article that calls Obama "an increasingly unpopular president," despite the fact that your own WAPO poll shows his approval rating at a very stable 50%. What should we believe here?

Posted by: converse | July 14, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Time for the House to start wagging the dog.

Ideas? How can House Dems, a bigger and more diffuse group than the Senate, yet more ideologically coherent, offer a concerted push back against stalled governance?

I'd love to see them do something as we enter the election period (five minutes ago).

Seems to me taking control of the DNC would be a start....

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 14, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

It's clear why Dems would be livid at Gibbs. He just made GOP takeover a Fait Accompli. The more apparent it becomes that the House is lost the further turnout is depressed.

Posted by: Truthteller12 | July 14, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

converse -- as best as I've been able to determine, it's true that House Dems were upset with Gibbs over that.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 14, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

But the Dems who are in the most danger are the ones in marginal distincts or ones with R+ PVI. These are by and large the Blue Dogs, who are the ones who are blocking things in the House. Yes, the Dems will lose some number of House seats, and that will make their margin slimmer. But they are going to lose Blue Dogs by and large, not the progressives from safe districts. And I'm willing to bet when all is said and done that the Dems lose many fewer House seats than currently projected.

The Senate is, of course, the real problem, and the problem in the Senate is (1) Obama and Reid didn't enforce any discipline at all and even campaigned for the execrable Blanche Lincoln; (2) Obama made his pleas for bpartisanship way past when it should have been obvious that the GOPers were totally unscrupulous and decietful; (3) the Dems are really bad at both framing and messaging so they don't articulate a coherent set of printciples and policies and look like they blow with the wind and (4) the reporting on the GOP obstructionism is just terrible so too few understand what is happening.

Even with all that I don't think things will be that bad when people actually go into the booth and have to choose between the actual candidates not abstract ideas.

Posted by: Mimikatz | July 14, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

All the Senate has to do is tell everyone, voters, the White House, and Republicans they're going to change the filibuster rules Jan. 2011, not say they might but they will. It'll put fear into the obstructionists in the Senate, give the House even more courage, and give every Dem something to run on that will counter the Party of NO. It also will encourage the President, if he needs it or wants it, to be bolder.

Posted by: lmsinca | July 14, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

@Greg: "re sbj's [deficit] claim, it seems like it might be a good idea to round up ALL the polling on the deficit and see what it shows."

You mean Pew's claim!

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Many Dems would not be grumbling about the deficit if their constituents were not making noise about it and it was not a political liability. That's a separate issue from whether folks should be concerned about the deficit. Doesn't matter if they should be, they are.

Also, it is possible to be both opposed to increasing the deficit and in favor of increased unemployment spending without being logically inconsistent. It is, as always, a matter of priority. If you must increase the deficit I'd much rather my money be spent extending unemployment than on [fill in the blank].

Posted by: sbj3 | July 14, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

mimi and lms, good posts. There are structural problems in the party that are going to get better or worse very soon. This is going to be a crucial election, not just in terms of raw numbers (seats for each party) but for the kind of reps who will make up the next congress. One thing it ain't gonna be is bipartisan, and good riddance to that if it means dealing with the current GOP and allowing the Blue Dogs to dominate from the minority (of the party).

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 14, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Gee all these leftist WaPo hacks who have been carrying Barry's water since Day One and never had a bad thing to say about Barry the incompetent boob Obama ... now they have "woken up" and we are supposed to treat them like pundits.

Miserable leftist hacks remind me of Baghdad Bob still calling all the plays in Barry's until finally they can lie no more.

Miserable failure Obama

Posted by: screwjob17 | July 14, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

The Senate in January, 2011 is likely going to be controlled by the Republicans.

Posted by: screwjob17 | July 14, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting to see the good old slide off going on here. the money quote from Mr Sargent:
"This isn't just true of jobs-creation. House Dems passed health reform far faster than the Senate did, and subsequently saw the progressive aspects of their effort junked. They passed climate change long ago, and are still waiting for the Senate to act. Same with financial regulatory reform, though that is all but certain to clear the Senate now."

Yeah, so the house did these things promptly. It is just that many in America HATE them.

Let's take climate change. I'm in Betty Sutton's district (it is very appropriate that her initials are BS). She voted with Pelosi on taxman-markey, even though as much as 80% of the electricity consumed in her district is generated by coal.

Honestly, you alleged pundits are completely missing the point. Instead of all this inside baseball nonsense why not simply accept the fact that America is rejecting the liberal agenda. The house Democrats can whine all they want, the simple fact is that they are on record as voting for things that Americans find unpalatable.

Go figure.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | July 14, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

It's great to hear from the 25 percenters.

Yes! You are America! Everything you believe, gathered from Fox and the radio, represents everyone like you.

And only like you.


Posted by: BGinCHI | July 14, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

What a brilliant, insightful, revealing, amazing, stunning, newsworthy, intellectually superior, riveting, courageous and fulfilling article...........yeah.

Posted by: chatard | July 14, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, who wasn't waiting for these ideas to spur job growth? We all know who the CofC supports right?

"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent the White House an "open letter" laying out a proposed roadmap to economic recovery, coinciding with the organization's "Jobs Summit" underway in Washington. The Chamber is an ultra-conservative political operation primarily funded by a handful of large companies. It plans to spend more than $50 million electing Republicans to Congress in 2010.

The Chamber's four-page letter offers a variety of suggestions for job creation, though it doesn't appear that they flipped past the first few pages of the free-market playbook when brainstorming the proposal. The ideas include deregulation of business, tax cuts for the wealthy, free trade agreements, a reduced corporate income tax, expanded offshore drilling and logging in national forests and the privatization of waterways and roads.

Specifically, the Chamber urges the president to extend Bush-era tax cuts in full and provide tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas."

Posted by: lmsinca | July 14, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Doggone it BG, dontcha know that all us Ohioans expect to be allowed to pollute the water and air, the rest of the world be dam*ed!!

Right, skippy?

Posted by: cmccauley60 | July 14, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I'd suggest to Pelosi that she should be more pissed off at her own 58 House Dems that are more concerned about deficit reduction than job creation, rather vent at than Gibbs.

Posted by: converse | July 14, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

AFLCIO response to the Chambers awesome suggestions:

"Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, denounced the Chamber's policy ideas. "Big corporations and Wall Street had their way for eight years under the Bush administration and we're just beginning to undo the damage," he said. "Which corporation is the model to show there is too much government regulation? The Wall Street firms that tanked the economy? Massey mining that killed miners when its long record of safety violations was left to continue? BP that killed people and is still destroying the Gulf as we speak, when their long record of violations wasn't punished?"

Posted by: lmsinca | July 14, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I'd suggest to Pelosi that she should be more pissed off at her own 58 House Dems that are more concerned about deficit reduction than job creation, rather vent at than Gibbs.

Posted by: converse | July 14, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

sorry for the double post...

...and that should be "rather than vent at Gibbs."

Posted by: converse | July 14, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Greg, thanks for maintaining a watchful eye on the discourse, it helps keep things civil and thoughtful.

Suppose the "Deficit uber alles" thing is yet another Republican red herring? The Republican Party clearly did not care about deficits while they rubberstamped everything Bush/Cheney and previous Republican administrations wanted. Caring now is another way -Passive Aggressive at that-of obstructing the Dems ability to spend the money necessary to get money, thus jobs in the field. the theory would support your finding concern among Americans on the deficit fairly low, while the flak/echo chamber value is fairly high.

Posted by: TillerJoe | July 14, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

All, Happy Hour Roundup posted:

...and thanks, Tiller.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 14, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

What is all of the complaining about? Every great general needs foot soldiers to make sacrifices for him. These House members should be proud to make the ultimate political sacrifice for Obama. After all, many are called. But few are chosen by our Great Leader.

Posted by: jdonner2 | July 14, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

So, my fellow Americans....... are you enjoying this Recovery Summer? When was the White House last burnt down? I don't think Michelle Obama is a Dolly Madison type, so it's doubtful if anything will be salvaged.

Posted by: richard36 | July 14, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Dems should have put jobs as number 1.
Then provide basic medical coverage, using Medicaid, to those uninsured.

But they insisted on screwing w/everyone's health by centralizing.
Bailed-out massive financial companies that messed up the economy in the first place.

Went completely off the rails with carbon tax trading for profit.
Utter failure of an opportunity to help working people.

Posted by: sperrico | July 14, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

"Tensions between Dems, White House" sinking ship

No wonder November, 2010 is National "Dump-the-democrats" month

Posted by: georgedixon1 | July 14, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Democrats in Congress certainly have a lot of nerve. They are absolute wimps. They have allowed Republicans to rule the Congress. The Democrats in Congress are so concerned about being reelected that they refuse to do their jobs and then whine that President Obama is not doing enough or is not mean enough. Has Congress forgotten that they write the laws and the President either signs them or vetoes them? The Democrats in Congress are comfortable letting President Obama take the heat thinking that will protect them but guess what, the American people ARE NOT STUPID!!!

Posted by: catmomtx | July 14, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Some people are suggesting as a poster here that the senate "change the filibuster rules Jan. 2011, not say they might but they will" It would be another arrogant,divisive action taken by Obama and the democrats that will push more voters, independents particularly, to the republicans.

Posted by: IamWright | July 14, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

HaHa, progressive democrats start to eat their own. Hilarious. Grab a box of popcorn the next 112 days are going to be great, not so much if you are a progressive democrat.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | July 14, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that it is a good thing that the Republican Party will likely take over the House and possibly the Senate in 2010. Better in 2010 then 2012. It will give time for this administration to recalibrate. Unemployment will still be 9% and above in November. What are the Republican Party going to do for the next two years? Nothing? I doubt that. They will make a good punching bag. Timing is everything in politics.

Posted by: AMQ1 | July 14, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

The house dems should be pissed. Instead of focusing on what they knew was important they've been shoving through Obama's personal agenda. Now that things have gotten ugly Obama throws them under the bus. Anybody see a pattern here?

Posted by: peterg73 | July 15, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

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