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Pelosi plays down tensions between White House, Democratic lawmakers

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By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 15, 2010; 12:46 PM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday sought to play down reports of tension between Democratic lawmakers and the White House, saying that President Obama and his team have been "cooperative" with their reelection efforts and would be even more so in the future.

House Democrats have lashed out in recent days at the White House, venting long-suppressed anger over what they see as Obama's lukewarm efforts to help them win reelection. They have accused administration officials of undermining the party's chances of retaining the House majority in November's midterm elections.

At her weekly news briefing Thursday, less than 48 hours after she and other House Democrats criticized Obama's political operation at a private caucus meeting, she said she and her fellow leaders visited the White House on Wednesday to smooth over the tension and discuss the legislative agenda.

"We had a very positive meeting with the president yesterday," Pelosi said. "Our major focus was on jobs. . . . There is absolutely no reason to think that the White House has been anything but cooperative with us in terms of our political efforts to retain control of Congress."

The current flare-up was sparked by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs's public comments over the weekend that the House majority was in doubt and that it would take "strong campaigns by Democrats" to avert dramatic losses.

Pelosi said Thursday that "whatever comment may have been made has nothing to do with what the president is doing and what the president is saying himself."

As for whether Obama will be spending more time on the campaign trail helping House Democrats, Pelosi said he would do "more than he has, certainly," but not as a result of this week's dispute.

"Nothing is different because of any comment that was made," she said.

Many Democratic House members believe that they have dutifully gone along with the White House on politically risky issues -- including the stimulus plan, the health-care overhaul and climate change -- without seeing much, if anything, in return. Many of them are angry that Obama has actively campaigned for Democratic Senate candidates but has done fewer events for House members.

The boiling point came Tuesday night during a closed meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol. Pelosi excoriated Gibbs's public comments over the weekend that the House majority was in doubt and that it would take "strong campaigns by Democrats" to avert dramatic losses.

"What the hell do they think we've been doing the last 12 months? We're the ones who have been taking the tough votes," Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.) said in an interview Wednesday.

Attempting to quell the uprising, Obama met privately with House Democratic leaders Wednesday evening to reassure them of his support. Aides said the meeting went well and focused on the agenda in the run-up to the elections.


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