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Obama's bold agenda getting a push-back from Democrats

WASHINGTON — President Obama is facing misgivings about his policy agenda from inside his own party, with prominent Democrats objecting to parts of his taxation and spending plans and questioning the White House push to do so much so fast.

Obama's strategy is to advance on all fronts. Buoyed by favorable poll numbers, he is moving to jolt the economy with a massive stimulus package, revamp the health care system and push the nation toward renewable energy sources.

The president scored a major victory with the passage of his $789 billion stimulus package. But holding together a Democratic coalition to pass the rest of his program may prove difficult.

Obama's party is peppered with legislators from conservative districts who are wary of a budget proposal that includes tax increases and deficit spending, even if tax cuts are also part of the plan. Already, Republicans have targeted some Democrats with advertisements pressuring them to reject Obama's plans.

Complicating matters, Obama is asking the political system in Washington to absorb a slew of legislation and policy shifts rivaling what President Franklin D. Roosevelt put forward 76 years ago. Going "all-in," in poker terms, puts a strain on a legislative system used to a more incremental approach.

"The hardest part of this is Congress' digestive tract, which is rather challenged. We're not used to this," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.

Fissures among Democratic lawmakers already have emerged. Rep. Harry Mitchell is a Democrat who represents a predominantly Republican district in suburban Phoenix. Mitchell said he cannot support provisions in Obama's budget that would raise the capital gains tax for couples earning more than $250,000 and halt the repeal of the estate tax in 2010.

If the White House won't relent, Mitchell said he would need to think carefully about whether to vote for the president's budget.

Describing his constituents, Mitchell said: "They're very cautious about taxes, and they're fiscally conservative."

For her part, Harman worries about the growing national debt. Obama's budget projects a $1.75 trillion deficit for 2009.

"My concern is that my three grandchildren under 3 years old are paying for this, and I don't like that," she said.

Obama's bold agenda getting a push-back from Democrats 03/08/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 9, 2009 3:49pm]
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