By Mike Lillis - 09/23/11 12:03 AM EDT
President Obama should quit watching sports and drinking beer with his political opponents in hopes it will lead to GOP cooperation, Rep. Maxine Waters said Thursday.
The outspoken California Democrat said Obama needs to fight harder for Democratic policy priorities in the face of entrenched opposition from Republicans and the Tea Party.
“He’s done all of that, and when they eat his food and drink his beer and leave, then they go and try to kill him [on Capitol Hill],” she told an audience gathered for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Foundation’s annual legislative conference in Washington.
“You’ve gotta fight — you will not win this battle without fighting,” she added.
Many House liberals have been disenchanted with Obama going back to December, when the president accepted GOP demands that the Bush-era tax rates be extended to even the wealthiest Americans — a provision strongly opposed by most Democrats.
The president drew similar liberal criticism this summer for backing enormous cuts in both a 2011 spending bill and legislation to raise the debt ceiling. More recently, some CBC members wondered aloud why Obama didn’t visit any urban areas on his August jobs tour through the Midwest.
Obama this month has taken steps to silence his liberal critics, adopting a more combative tone, for instance, in his Sept. 8 address before a joint session of Congress. Liberals are also cheering Obama’s proposal to eliminate the same tax rates for the wealthy that he’d backed in December.
Still, Waters suggested Thursday that CBC members remain wary of Obama’s willingness to fight for liberal priorities when the going gets tough.
“We love the president. We want him to be successful,” Waters said. “But does he feel our pain? Does he understand what’s going on out here?”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Waters, who heads the CBC’s jobs taskforce, said she’s encouraged by Obama’s new proposal to address unemployment and rein in deficit spending. But she also warned that the group will be watching closely as the high-stakes budget negotiations evolve.
“We’re pleased that the president has a jobs proposal. Now we have to trace it and to track it … because strange things happen in the legislative process. We don’t want this to end up being just a tax-cut deal only,” she said.
“I love the president,” she added, “but I will ask the president, ‘Where’s the money?’ ”
Waters suggested the black community needs to become more involved if it wants Washington lawmakers to take notice, for instance, that the recession hit minority communities much harder than it did white populations.
“We have got to show up. The Tea Party shows up. The Tea Party intimidates everybody,” she said. “We have to show people that we have no fear. Don’t mistake the silence for intimidation.”
Waters generated headlines last month when, amid a CBC job-promotion tour, she said the Tea Party “can go straight to hell.”
On Thursday, she wasn’t apologizing.
“Yes, I was displayed in national media telling them where to go,” she said. “And I mean that.”
If anyone in the audience was surprised by Waters’s trenchancy, they shouldn’t have been. Indeed, the California Democrat had warned the crowd that she wouldn’t be holding her tongue.
“Please be worried about what I’m going to say," she said at the start of her remarks,” because I’m going to say it anyway.”
This story was originally published at 2:46 p.m. and updated at 8:03 p.m.