How Obama is wisely navigating Washington
Two weeks ago, President Obama was getting criticism from all sides, with liberals arguing he was squandering an opportunity to pass major gun control legislation and centrists and conservatives casting him as not providing enough leadership on deficit reduction.
Nevermind all that. Obama is now not only moving forward on three of his biggest policy priorities for a second term, but has managed to recruit an impressive and surprising set of allies.
On Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), perhaps the most important figure in the Republican Party because of his ethnicity and potential presidential candidacy, was appearing on seven political talk shows to tout immigration reform, giving a huge bi-partisan lift to Obama’s plans on that issue.
At the same time, the families of the victims of the Newtown shooting, along with senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), two members with “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association, were aligning with the president for increased background checks for gun purchases. And a bi-partisan group of senators is working with Obama on his deficit reduction ideas.
Republicans can still present roadblocks
None of this is guaranteed to become law. Republicans, particularly in the House, remain wary of creating a pathway to citizenship for people not legally in the United States, raising taxes on the wealthy or adding any additional restrictions on gun ownership or purchasing, the underlying ideas of Obama’s proposals.
And some of his new allies, particularly Rubio, Toomey and Manchin, are not eager to be described as friends of Obama. They have all emphasized they are working with individual senators, not the White House, in writing legislation.
But that’s part of the wisdom of what the president has done. Both he and the first lady delivered passionate speeches on the urgency of gun control over the last week. At the same time though, Obama and his team have allowed the senators to drive the legislative process on the issue. And they are trying to elevate the voices of the victims of the shooting , who may have more influence than Obama in swaying anti-gun control senators.
On Saturday, the president let Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son Ben was among those killed in Newtown, deliver his weekly radio address, the first time a person other than Obama or Biden has done so.
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