Progressives Pleased After Obama Meeting
House liberals got their day in the sun with President Barack Obama, who on Tuesday sat down with nearly the entire 77-member Congressional Progressive Caucus to hear their concerns on two key issues: health care reform and war funding.
Obama met with the group at the White House for more than an hour, during which time six or seven Members gave presentations on various issues. Most Members — even some of the most vocally anti-war lawmakers who oppose Obama’s plan to send 17,000 more troops into Afghanistan — said they left feeling pleased with the exchange.
“It went well. It was very open,— CPC co-chair Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said. She acknowledged feeling like progressives have been taken for granted thus far by Obama, who has met with virtually every other caucus but theirs.
“Let’s not miss the obvious point here: It was good we even had a meeting,— Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said.
With regard to the upcoming supplemental spending bill, lawmakers urged Obama to shift funding from a military surge in Afghanistan to more emphasis on development and humanitarian assistance.
“He said we’re going to head in that direction,— Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said. “Whether he’s going to go as fast as we want him to go, that’s another question.—
“The president is very clear in changing the direction here,— Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said. “We asked him to do that. We don’t have a response yet.—
While a number of progressives plan to vote against the $83.4 billion war bill because it includes funds for more troops, many CPC Members are expected to back it because they want to support Obama.
Even Woolsey, who has vowed to vote against any bill with more troop funds, conceded that Obama’s budget does include more non-military aid and that he inherited much of the supplemental.
“So many of us were against the war. But there’s also a respect for a president who clearly has an outstanding grasp of what’s going on in Afghanistan,— Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said. “I don’t think there was a person in that room that couldn’t say they didn’t respect that.—
On the health care front, Woolsey said lawmakers advocated for a “robust public option— modeled on Medicare for all Americans and not a watered-down version.
“The president said our argument is not with him, it’s our colleagues in the House,— she said. “We’ve got to work it out.—
One lawmaker said Obama reassured the group that on several fronts, he is more of an ally to liberals than to conservative Democrats.
“He said, I’m not going to be against you. I’m already with you,’— the lawmaker said. “He showed a lot of respect to the caucus.—