Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's troubles with a weakening economy are outracing his excuses, triggering political turmoil and angst among Democrats who now fear they will lose majority control of Congress in November. The White House is getting slammed by one economic bombshell after another. The data coming in during the past week suggests that economic growth had slowed down to just over 2 percent in April through June, far from the 3.5 percent that had been forecast. The Federal Reserve Board released minutes of its June meeting showing most board members saying it will take "five or six years" for the country to pull out of its economic lethargy and nearly 10 percent unemployment.

The entire gamut of the nation's business community, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the small business lobby over at the National Federation of Independent Business, has been pounding the administration almost weekly for a legislative juggernaut they say is creating paralyzing uncertainty in the economy and killing job creation.

All of this is fueling strong disapproval of the ruling party. The Democrats got an earful from voters over the long Fourth of July recess, reinforcing internal party polls showing they have lost the nation's support for their big spending, welfare-state agenda. The boiling point came last Tuesday in a closed-door party caucus meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol, where rank-and-file members vented their anger toward a White House that seemed to be doing nothing to defend them and their "walk the plank" votes on everything from a failed trillion-dollar stimulus, Obamacare and energy taxes to excessive financial regulation reform.

"What the hell do they think we've been doing the last 12 months? We're the ones who have been taking the tough votes," Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey told the Washington Post.

While Obama was running around the country taking credit for these and other bills his party supported, they were getting slammed back home for spending the nation into bankruptcy and suffocating a jobless economic recovery.

But no economic development in recent weeks was worse than the Federal Reserve Board's warning, which lowered expectations for future economic growth and said the recovery would be slower than previously thought.

"The changes to the outlook were viewed as relatively modest and as not warranting policy accommodation beyond that already in place," the Fed said in minutes from the June 22-23 policy meeting.

"However, members noted that in addition to continuing to develop and test instruments to exit from the period of unusually accommodative monetary policy, the Committee would need to consider whether further policy might become appropriate if the outlook were to worsen appreciably," the minutes read.

If slower growth were not bad enough politically for Obama and the Democrats as they prepare to face the voters in the midterm elections, the specter of high unemployment for the rest of the year and into 2011 will be deadly.

Fed officials now expect the unemployment rate to be in the 9.5 percent range through the end of 2010, and 9 percent by the end of 2011.

The intensity of the complaints leveled at the White House shocked officials in the West Wing. The headlines that led the Washington Post's front page Thursday revealed the deep dissension that has long been bubbling beneath the surface: "House Democrats hit boiling point. Obama tries to quell uprising. Anger over taking risks, getting little in return."

These were party leaders who were turning on the administration itself in public, most without attribution, feeding the Republicans with new ammunition showing that even Democrats were losing faith in the president and his policies. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs came under severe criticism from caucus members for predicting Sunday that the GOP had a shot at winning the 39 seats needed to take control of the House. When Pascrell criticized Gibbs' statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly said, "I disagree on one point, I think you were too kind to Mr. Gibbs."

But these House Democrats were not only complaining about being taken for granted by the White House; they had now come to the conclusion that the Obama agenda went way beyond what the voters wanted them to do in the 2008 election.

"The Democrats have over-reached, and that's one reason why there are so many races in play," said Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, who is facing a strong Republican challenge this year.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel "knows as well as anyone the challenges moderate and conservative Democrats face in their districts. I think there are some, in the administration and in Congress, who don't fully understand the political dynamics," Edwards told reporters following the caucus meeting.

The day of reckoning seems at hand. With the economy sending signals it is backsliding, Democrats in rebellion with their political leader, and the administration's economic agenda in shambles, the end is near.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.



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