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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Separation of Powers and Party Politics

Even at times of party polarization, the separation of powers creates tensions between presidents and their partisans on Capitol Hill. Lisa Mascaro reports in The Los Angeles Times:

On the eve of the vote last week, Democratic leaders compiled a complicated $82-billion package of war funding, disaster aid and domestic spending that achieved the seemingly impossible — meeting the president's request while accommodating the needs of its politically diverse members.

Obama responded with a one-word message that sent shudders through his party on the Hill: veto.

In that exchange, the tension between the White House and the president's Democratic allies spilled over.


"The White House needs to be more engaged with the House's agenda," said Rep. Steve Cohen, an antiwar Democrat from Tennessee. "The House is where its friends are."

As Obama turns to these friends in the weeks ahead, he may find it increasingly difficult to persuade them to yield to his remaining legislative priorities.

"I don't give a rip about the administration," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Atwater), whose Merced-area district in Central California faces one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. "The administration can decide to be with us or not. I'm all about jobs for my district."

This tension appears in both parties. In 1990, when President George H.W. Bush was trying to get House Republicans to back an unpopular tax increase, Representative Mickey Edwards (R-OK) said: ''We admire the President, and we support the President, but we don't work for the President."