Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama Deal Draws Quick Complaints from Liberals

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama Deal Draws Quick Complaints from Liberals

Article excerpt

President Barack Obama's fiscal deal with Republicans drew a harsh barrage of complaints from activists, labor leaders and liberal economists.

President Barack Obama's fiscal deal with Republicans touched off a fresh wave of grievance among disappointed liberals who complained that he had caved in on taxes and sent a signal that he would ultimately roll over on other priorities as he prepared to open his second term.

While almost all Democratic senators went along with the compromise in an early-morning vote on Tuesday, activists, labor leaders and liberal economists issued a harsh barrage against the deal. The president, they said, squandered his election victory by allowing too many wealthy Americans to keep income and estate tax cuts that otherwise would have expired.

The criticism frustrated the White House, which argued that the president held true to his top priorities by forcing Republicans to accept higher income tax rates on higher income after they had long refused to do so. Aides noted that Mr. Obama had also won important concessions in extending unemployment benefits and targeted tax credits while beating back Republican demands to scale back the growth of entitlement benefits.

"While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country," Mr. Obama said in a statement issued after the Senate vote on Tuesday.

On Monday, he tried to reassure Democrats with a public appearance emphasizing that he still planned to seek more taxes in later fiscal talks.

Either way, the sharp debate signaled that the uneasy truce between Mr. Obama and his base that held through the campaign season had expired. It also offered a harbinger of the dynamics for the president's next four years in office as he prepares to take the oath this month for a second time.

The criticism mirrors similar complaints in the past when Mr. Obama included tax cuts in his stimulus package, gave up on a government-run option in health care negotiations and temporarily extended Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy two years ago. Liberals said Mr. Obama should have leveraged his re-election and the expiration of all of the Bush tax cuts to force Republicans to accept his terms.

"The president remains clueless about how to use leverage in a negotiation," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal advocacy organization. "Republicans publicly admitted they lost the tax debate and would be forced to cave, yet the president just kept giving stuff away."

Richard L. …

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