Republican leaders sharply criticized the president’s approach, saying he is focused on the wrong constituency. Declaring that the “time for campaigning is over,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Obama should focus on ensuring that Democrats are willing to compromise over higher tax rates for the wealthy, something Republicans oppose.
“It was with some concern that I read this morning that the president plans to hit the road this week to drum up support for his own personal approach to the short- and long-term fiscal challenges we face,” McConnell said. “So let me suggest that if the president wants a solution to the challenges of the moment, the people he needs to be talking to are the members of his own party, so he can convince them of the need to act.”
Still, in a sign that Obama’s strategy poses a threat, House Republicans announced their own public relations effort Tuesday, focused on the argument that raising taxes on the rich would hurt businesses and the sluggish recovery. Leadership aides said Republican members of Congress will visit small businesses nationwide in coming weeks to assert that Obama’s position would threaten job creation.
White House aides said Obama learned his lesson about relying solely on direct negotiations with House Republicans in the summer of 2011, when he was unable to achieve a “grand bargain” over deficit reduction with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
After the messy collapse of those talks resulted in the nation’s credit rating being downgraded for the first time, Obama abruptly changed strategies, embarking on a national tour to hawk a jobs bill and delivering a major speech on the economy in Osawatomie, Kan.
The strategic shift was capped off last December, when Obama successfully negotiated an extension of payroll tax cuts that administration officials considered vital to the economic recovery.
As he will do this week, Obama visited a Pennsylvania town that month to rally support, appearing at a union hall in Scranton. He also invited ordinary Americans to the White House and began a social-media campaign on Twitter and Facebook. Ultimately, Boehner agreed to extend the payroll tax cut without winning additional concessions from the White House.
Carney was asked at his daily briefing Tuesday whether the president would be better served by remaining in town this week for direct negotiations with House Republicans rather than by traveling outside the Beltway to appeal to the public.
“Only inside the Beltway do people think that sitting in a room for a photo spray will solve problems,” Carney replied, referring to media slang for an appearance by politicians aimed primarily at photographers. “I don’t think there is a lot of faith that a bunch of people sitting around a table in a room are going to solve problems on behalf of the American people . . . if those sitting around the table aren’t also communicating and engaging with the American people.”
Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.