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Obama gives fretting unions some facetime today

Debt Vote House tally 8-1-11 CSPAN

Some serious feigned fence-mending scheduled for this morning behind closed doors at the White House.

President Obama, according to his public schedule, will meet with the AFL-CIO Executive Council to "discuss issues important to working families, including how to continue growing our economy and putting Americans back to work."

Translation from the unions' POV: WTH were you thinking when you did this debt ceiling deal? The Senate will vote on the deal today. And the president is expected to sign it soon after.

It's one major measure of the political sea change in Washington this summer that President Obama's State of the Union message last winter hardly mentioned the word debt. And yet the D.C. debate ever since has been nothing but debt and spending cuts.

After increasing the national debt by $4 trillion on his watch, for a variety of reasons, Obama lost....

...not only his party's House majority in 2010 but control of the Capitol's discussion agenda as well.

There's much that labor does not like in the deal: No tax hikes to match spending cuts. Worries over entitlement reforms imposed by the congressional super committee TBD.

"More spending cuts are just around the corner," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, "and this debt deal lays the groundwork for substantial cuts to vital federal programs..."

But overall labor's unhappiness with this Democratic White House's concessions to John Boehner's Republican House have been largely muted so far.

Yes, Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, denounced the deal. "The expected debt ceiling agreement is a raw deal for working people," she said after the House vote, "and the 30 million Americans who are still looking for work. This morally wrong legislation does nothing to help working families."

She didn't blame Obama. Others came close. Andy Stern, former SEIU president, told Huffington Post's Sam Stein, "We have now had at least three or more experiences of the president explaining to people that he has a plan and it is under control but the results don't match."

The reason is fairly simple and both Obama and the unions know it. Despite their crucial importance to Obama's reelection in terms of money and on-the-ground troops, the president in reality can take them all for granted. Despite Sen. Bernie Sanders' suggestion, there is no primary challenge in the offing.

What are the unions going to do, jump to Ron Paul or Rick Santorum? Obama will likely pretend to woo the union executives today.

But as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas told the new Keith Olbermann Monday night, "We're stuck with Obama."

RELATED:

New polls confirm Obama's base is crumbling

Obama loses ground against any Republican opponent

Smiles on Capitol Hill but more bad poll news for the White House

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: C-SPAN (final House vote tally).

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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