Obama seeks to build on recent successes

Still savoring what was easily the best week of the Obama presidency, the White House and Democrats are looking to build on recent successes with an agenda for the rest of the year that they contend can address economic problems and reduce the party's expected losses in November.

The top priorities include a domestic push for an overhaul of the nation's financial regulatory system and a foreign policy focus on nuclear safety. With an eye on the midterm elections, the overall goal is to demonstrate that Democrats, when given a majority, know how to govern.

In the span of just a few days, the president achieved victory on the healthcare overhaul that had been his top priority, announced a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, pushed through Congress a major reform of student loans and received a rock-star welcome from troops in Afghanistan.

Clearly buoyed by the successes, the president looked back fondly on the big wins, singling out health care and student loans as "two major victories in one week that will improve the lives of our people for generations to come." The mood might be contagious. After months of gloom, there are now early signs of cautious optimism on Capitol Hill and even a little ebullience at the White House.

"The truth is that health care was the issue that animated a lot of people for the campaign," said Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest. "For some people, this was the reason they got involved and worked so hard. Taking the long view, this was the issue that some people dedicated their lives to, and it was satisfying to score a win."

The mood has similarly improved inside the Democratic caucuses in Congress, said former Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif., who stays in close contact with former colleagues. "There is still a lot of angst about how each individual is going to handle their own politics on health care," he said. "But the momentum has been shifting, and the morale is improving. Democrats now think they see some hope out there where a few months ago they were very grim and very frightened about the future."

Fazio said Obama would have had little hope for the rest of his legislative agenda this year had he lost on health care. "Whether his presidency would have been threatened, I don't know. But certainly his majorities would have been threatened," he said. "Members would have hunkered down and been very, very hard to reach for the rest of the session on almost anything."

Now, said Earnest, the wins "build some momentum on Capitol Hill for the president's agenda," adding they should "encourage members of Congress to continue pursuing an agenda" set by the president. He said the White House views financial regulatory reform and the upcoming nuclear safety summit as most important.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg agreed that there is a linkage between the outcome of the health fight and the rest of the agenda. "Each thing they do increases their ability to do the next," he said. "Health care increased their ability to do financial regulation."

The key issue, he contended, is making government work.

"Competence matters," Greenberg said. "Up until now, Democrats have failed in governance. They need a series of things that shows that they can address the big problems and act together."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.