President Barack Obama faces a growing rebellion on the left as he courts independent voters and Republicans with his vision for reducing the nation’s debt by cutting government spending and restraining the costs of federal health insurance programs.
Key liberal groups, which helped elect Obama in 2008, are raising concerns that he has given up political ground to Republicans, allowing the message of reducing government to trump that of creating jobs and lowering the unemployment rate.
Seizing on Friday’s deal, which would cut $38.5 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget, activists on Tuesday threatened to sit out the 2012 presidential campaign if Obama goes too far with further cuts.
“The fundamental problem in our country right now is unemployment and a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis,” said Deepak Bhargava, an advocacy group for the poor. “It appears the president is fighting on the wrong terrain...”
The dispute also underscores a key question about what will define the coming year for Obama: an attempt to defend longtime Democratic priorities over Republican objections or an effort to seek compromise and control the national debt.
The White House is responding to concerns about spending cuts by saying that the president is working to preserve important programs that help the economy grow - such as investments in education - while taking seriously the need to reduce the debt.
(For additional content from The Washington Post, visit www.washingtonpost.com)