Obama fundraises for Dems, demands GOP cooperation
LOS ALTOS, Calif. (AP) -- With Congress struggling against time to address key legislation, President Barack Obama on Wednesday portrayed Republicans as members of a party that "has no agenda other than making government not work." He said that view breeds public cynicism that helps the GOP by dissuading the public to vote.
Obama's critique of Republicans came during a fundraising appearance in this wealthy enclave in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he cast himself as being above the political fray even as he embarks on one of his most intense money-raising sprees for the Democratic Party.
"The reason politics does not work in Washington, I want to be clear, is not because both parties are in the tank," he told donors at an event that raised money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The reason it does not work right now is because we have one party that has no agenda other than making government not work, whose primary function, whose primary purpose if you distill their ideology comes down to saying `no' to any efforts to help ordinary families get ahead."
A day earlier, Obama said Republican lawmakers have "gone kind of off the rails."
His remarks also came as Republican leaders accused him of not being sufficiently engaged in legislation and of not pursuing bipartisan solutions.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, noted Tuesday that the Republican-controlled House has passed numerous pieces of legislation that he says would boost the economy but have stalled in the Democratic-led Senate.
"If he's serious, he'll help us break the logjam in his party's Senate and make more progress for Americans still asking `where are the jobs?'" Boehner said.
Obama's fundraising - at least six events over three days in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles - comes in a week that represented the two extremes of his approach to Congress. On Tuesday he signed a rare piece of bipartisan job-training legislation and hailed it as a symbol of cooperation. On Monday he signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the base of sexual orientation, the kind of go-it-alone strategy he has made a keystone of his second term.
Still, the lack of compromise has not only halted progress on a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system but also raised doubts about legislation to help address an influx of young migrants at the southern border and to fix the nation's veterans' health programs.
Congress has until the end of next week to move on various fronts before it begins a monthlong recess. By the time lawmakers return in September, the midterm election's fall campaign will be dominant.
"What they know," Obama said of Republicans, "is if government is not working, people get cynical and if people get cynical they do not vote. And if people do not vote it advantages them."
With his travels coinciding with crises abroad in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, Obama made a last-minute decision to scrap an appearance with late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel. But there was still room for some glamour and glitz on the trip.
Later Wednesday Obama was attending a Democratic National Committee event for about 450 donors at the Beverly Hills home of Shonda Rhimes, the producer of the Washington-set ABC-TV drama "Scandal." Kerry Washington, who plays the lead role on the show, is among the hosts. Tickets start at $1,000.
Earlier Wednesday, Obama participated in events for the House Majority PAC, a committee that can raise unlimited funds for House candidates, and another for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The House Majority PAC event was closed to reporters. Obama had once criticized those types of organizations for creating an end-run around political contribution limits, but Democrats have now embraced the system and Obama has agreed to appear before group events but not to solicit funds.
Donations to the DCCC event at the Los Altos home of real estate developer George Marcus range from $10,000 per person to $32,400 per couple.
In Washington, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell faulted Obama for not being in town while Congress debates vital legislation.
"I'm not going to give him advice about how to allocate his time, but he's certainly not spending the kind of time with the people he needs to pass legislation and convince people who have a vote, who were sent here to legislate, of the virtues of whatever position he has," McConnell said.
White House officials say Obama is more than able to carry out all his duties and attend to crises while on the road.
"In terms of fundraising, it's a responsibility that presidents in both parties for generations have been responsible for," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday. "And the president, like his predecessors, is interested in supporting members of his party who are on the ballot in 2014 and that's part of what he'll be doing over the course of this week."