President Obama told a star-studded Hollywood fundraiser that he still sensed “a disquiet” and “anxiety” around the country stemming from dysfunction in Washington, blaming congressional Republicans for a “spiral of even more cynicism and more dysfunction.”
“There's still a disquiet around the country. There's an anxiety and a sense of frustration,” Obama said. “And the reason is that people understand that for all that we've done, the challenges out there remain daunting and we have a Washington that's not working.”
The president also implored attendees, who paid between $10,000 and $32,400, to attend the event at the Bel Air home of Disney chairman Alan Horn, not to focus their energy and attention on the 2016 presidential election.
Donors included singer Barbara Streisand, actor James Brolin, and studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, and the proceeds benefited the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, was also in attendance as she skipped several House votes during the day, including one to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt for refusing to testify about the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.
The president’s remarks said that while structural impediments, including Senate rules, campaign finance, and the media all contributed to Washington gridlock, the true cause were “fundamental” differences between “what we as Democrats believe and what this particular brand of Republicans that we've got in Congress believes.”
"We believe in pay equity. They say 'No.' We believe in a higher minimum wage. They say 'No,’ ” Obama railed. “We believe in making sure that we're investing in our infrastructure and putting people back to work and investing in innovation and basic research that can unlock cures for things like Alzheimer's. Their budget takes us in the opposite direction. We believe in early childhood education to make sure that opportunity for all actually means something. That it's not just a slogan. They say 'No.’”
Obama said when Republicans who don’t believe in government are empowered, “gridlock rains, and we get this downward spiral of even more cynicism and more disfunction.”
“We have to break out of that cycle and that’s what this election is about,” Obama said.
But Republicans seized on the president’s dire warning to note he was describing anxieties that persisted five years into his presidency.
“President Obama on the Obama Economy tonight: [families] still have not seen an increase in wages, an increase in incomes,” tweeted Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
On Thursday, Obama is scheduled to participate in a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Beverley Hills before heading to San Diego for another event benefiting the DCCC. Later, he travels to San Jose for two more DNC fundraisers.