D.C. for Obama had just scheduled its first meeting for later this month to kick off its 2012 reelection plans. But then came last week’s budget deal, with Obama negotiating away the District’s right to use its own money to fund abortions for poor women.
Now, Barr, 29, has put the meeting on hold. And D.C. for Obama has turned its attention to a new and rather awkward cause: criticizing Obama.
Barr, a management consultant who moved to the District in 2005, has chastised the White House in e-mails distributed over the past three days to a list of 16,000 Obama volunteers, pledging to do more to keep up the pressure.
“D.C. was sold to the lowest bidder,” Barr wrote in one missive Tuesday. “Let there be no mistake, Congress and the White House are telling D.C. what to do with its own local funds, not federal funds.”
In an interview, Barr said he didn’t yet know whether he would abandon his plans to rev up the campaign operation once more for the president.
The tension illustrates the larger political challenge facing Obama as he tries to forge bipartisan deals with newly empowered Republicans while simultaneously firing up his base for his reelection campaign next year.
Liberal activist groups such as MoveOn.org have leveled harsh criticisms against the White House for the new deal to cut $38 billion in spending from this year’s federal budget — an agreement the president hailed as as historic but that many on the left see as a defeat.
A protest Monday on Capitol Hill led to the arrests of District Mayor Vincent C. Gray and several council members, with Gray accusing Obama and Congress of throwing the city “under the bus.”
Barr’s frustrations were first reported Tuesday by the liberal Huffington Post Web site.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama does not like the D.C. provision but thought it was required to forge a deal.
“The president is a firm supporter of D.C. home rule and continues to be that,” Carney said. “And the choices that had to be made in this negotiation were not easy ones.”
The Post reported Sunday that Obama allowed the D.C. provision to be enacted in exchange for House Republicans removing restrictions on money going to nonprofit groups that provide abortion services nationwide, including Planned Parenthood.
“John, I will give you D.C. abortion. I am not happy about it,” Obama said to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) in an Oval Office conversation, according to a Democrat and Republican who were present.
Barr called the exchange “offensive,” noting that Obama had pledged support for District voting rights and statehood.
“It’s hard to square these actions and those words that came out of the mouth of the person we elected to office,” Barr said.