President Obama on Monday said his difficulties driving bargains with congressional Republicans had little do with the personal relationships he has with members across the aisle, instead arguing that partisan politics were to blame.
But Obama said congressional Republicans continued to criticize him over policy differences, despite his despite outreach efforts.
"I'm over here at the congressional picnic, and folks are coming up and taking pictures with their family. I promise you, Michelle and I are very nice to them, and we have a wonderful time," Obama said. "But it doesn't prevent them from going onto the floor of the House and, you know, blasting me for being a big-spending socialist."
The president went on to say that he believed the threat of Tea Party challenges on the right was the reason for eroding social relationships between different parties.
"The reason that, you know, in many cases Congress votes the way they do or talks the way they talk, or takes positions in negotiations that they take, doesn't have to do with me," Obama said. "It has to do with the imperatives that they feel in terms of their own politics. Right? They're worried about their district. They're worried about what's going on back home."
Obama has come under fire from some members of Congress — including Democrats — for seeming insular or standoffish, a personality trait some have pointed to in explaining the difficulty he has in striking long-term debt teals. Obama did concede Monday he "can always do a better job" reaching out, but also said he believed the problem was overblown.
"My suspicion is, getting the issues resolved that we just talked about, the big stuff, whether or not we get sensible laws passed to prevent gun violence, whether or not America's paying its bills, whether or not we get immigration reform done, all that's going to be determined largely by where the respective parties stand on policy and, maybe most importantly, the attitude of the American people," Obama said.
The president added that if voters insisted that leaders strike an agreement, that would cause "change" in Congress, "whether I'm the life of the party or a stick in the mud."