April 21st, 2010
05:22 PM ET
8 years ago

Stronger role by Obama on reform may be yielding results

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama appears to have learned one lesson from the bruising fight over health care reform.

Some Democrats criticized Obama for failing to assume a leading role in shaping the health care legislation, which they said extended the congressional wrangling needed to get the bill passed.

Now pushing the second major reform initiative of his presidency - this time to strengthen regulations on the financial industry - Obama is taking a more visible leadership role. In recent days, the president has pushed hard for the measure by backing specific provisions and criticizing the Senate's top Republican for what Obama called spreading misinformation.

On Thursday, Obama heads to New York for a speech at historic Cooper Union to call for quick congressional approval of financial regulation reforms to prevent another Wall Street meltdown like the one in 2008 that helped cause the widespread recession.

Obama's public role on financial regulation reform is "very different from health care reform," noted CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

"On health care reform, it took the president quite some time to start getting involved," Borger said. For financial reform, Obama is going to Wall Street, the White House has hinted at compromise on a controversial $50 billion liquidation fund opposed by Republicans, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has been involved in negotiations, she said.

"This is a White House that wants to get this done, and the president will be out there personally doing it," Borger said.

In general, the issue of tightening regulations on risky Wall Street practices that led to a recession is more popular politically than the
comprehensive health care reform effort, which endured months of tortuous legislative maneuvering before finally passing.

Obama's hands-on role in shaping the financial reform legislation, including threats to veto a watered-down proposal, has helped Democratic colleagues hammering out the details with Republicans.

In addition, Obama's more aggressive approach seeks to better control the messaging around the issue to avoid a repeat of the public backlash against the health care reform bill that was fueled in part by Republicans and the insurance industry.

Last year, Obama and the Democrats were slow to respond to misleading claims about the health care proposal - that it would force senior citizens off Medicare, provide coverage for illegal immigrants and create "death panels."

When Democratic members of Congress went home for their August break, they faced angry constituents further riled by the misinformation. It took months to overcome some of the false perceptions of the bill.

This time, Obama has counter-punched quickly.

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said last week that a proposed financial regulations reform bill passed by Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee would institutionalize federal bailouts of big banks, Obama singled him out in his weekly radio and Internet address.

Saying the reforms are opposed by those "who profit from the status quo" and their "allies in Washington," Obama told how "just the other day, in fact, the leader of the Senate Republicans and the chair of the Republican Senate campaign committee met with two dozen top Wall Street executives to talk about how to block progress on this issue."

"Lo and behold, when he returned to Washington, the Senate Republican leader came out against the common-sense reforms we've proposed," Obama said. "In doing so, he made the cynical and deceptive assertion that reform would somehow enable future bailouts - when he knows that it would do just the opposite."

Such a direct attack, particularly in the traditional Saturday message to the nation, was unusual for Obama and firmly established him as a leading public player on the issue.

In response, McConnell was careful to say the bill would ensure continued government intervention in future financial crises, but not necessarily taxpayer-funded bailouts.

"We want to make sure that we don't set up a system whereby we empower the government to continue to do what it's been doing - running banks, car companies," McConnell said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "The American people are saying 'we don't want another bailout,' but they also don't want a kind of perpetual, government massive interventions across the board running private businesses."

Two days later, McConnell spoke of a new bipartisan effort that could bring a compromise on the bill. Then on Wednesday, the Senate Agricultural Committee approved its version of financial reform legislation with support from one Republican - the first GOP vote so far in favor of either Senate proposal.

Eventual bipartisan congressional approval of a financial reform bill would reflect both the general popularity of the issue, especially in an
election year, and Obama's increased savvy in his second year in office. By contrast, Republicans fought the health care bill to the finish, with the measure receiving no GOP votes when finally approved by Congress.

At the same time, some striking similarities exist between the legislative battles waged over Obama's two biggest reform initiatives so far.

Like the health care bill, the financial reform bill was first passed by the House before getting hung up in the Senate's more deliberative processes.

Like the health care bill, Senate Democrats negotiated for weeks with Republicans before declaring an impasse and pledging to move forward on their own.

And in a repeat of tactics from the health care debate, fiercely partisan rhetoric abounded.

In the end, though, the result could be a second major legislative victory for the president and Democrats, this time with some Republican support.

Filed under: President Obama • Wall Street
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. gwen from Ohio

    Typical of the GOP to not back financial reform – those bankers have the GOP in their pockets.. Thank God for OBama, he is working so hard and is so intelligent!!!

    April 21, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  2. Danko

    I congratulate the Democratic leadership's venture into pomiculture: they have finally gotten some wood and grown a pear

    April 21, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  3. tekbit

    Is not the real issue the vast separation occuring as it has since recorded Time..the Rich getting Richer, and the Poor getting fed up about it?

    April 21, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  4. emmett brown

    It is nice to see the Rep's are being called out on these crazy statement they have been making.. One things that ticks Rep's off more than anything are people just coming out with crazy statements and they are just suppose to believe it, Dems and Reps may not agree on everything but people in general are not stupid to believe Wall St. reform bill will help Wall St. and cause more bailouts. The money is being put up by banks.....

    April 21, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  5. Sue

    ummmmm.......Have you seen Obama's approval numbers??

    It is obvious that the majority in the country are not buying anything that Obama, Pelosi, Reid and the Democrats are selling.

    Give back the $1 million that you received from Goldman Sachs Obama..........And, get all of the other Democrats to give back the money that they received as well, including Harry Reid.

    April 21, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  6. Susan

    This has nothing to do with reform, just one more thing for this administration to take over and control.

    April 21, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  7. Dan, TX

    I like the idea of government having more control over people. If Arizona can ask people to prove they are citizens, then police should be able to go to someone's home, look for guns, and make sure they are properly registered.

    The Arizona law opens the way for strong government power, including the right to "check up on" gun ownership.

    Arizona's immigration bill is big brother government being institutionalized like never before – it is fascism.

    April 21, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  8. If We Can Defeat Him On Health Care It Will Be His Waterloo

    Five stages of GOP (Got Obama Psychosis):

    1. Denial
    2. Anger
    3. More denial and anger
    4. Denying anger
    5. Intense anger because you are unable to deny your anger .

    April 21, 2010 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  9. Andy from NYC

    A leader leads by being out front on an issue, once an opinion has been reached. Not by allowing the mob, which is congress, to dictate policy and the agenda. Hopefully, you have learnt from your mistakes Mr. President.

    April 21, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    World leaders of other countries say President Obama is a THINKER before he speaks with remarketable intelligence, that's why the Republicans can't figure him out so they slander him. Lack of intellgence is no match for the intelligent one.

    April 21, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  11. Cheryl from MN

    That's it!!! Obama has to take the bull by the horns and be tough on reform!!!

    April 21, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  12. katiec

    President Obama needs to speak loud and clear about the republicans, once again, wanting to obstruct an important bill.
    They are getting alot of heat for their undying support for big business and are backing down some, but continue with the lies, fear mongering, hypocrasy and efforts to destroy our president, consequently, our country.
    President Obama has accomplished much for the American people and our country, regardless of a political party trying to further destroy everything.

    April 21, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  13. SK, Massachusetts

    lead by example...so what u gave me contributions...whats wrong is wrong!!!! GOP get that!!!!

    April 21, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  14. Aspen Professor

    Go for the throat Mr. President!!!!

    Looks like Palin the brain dead Repub from the far right-wing extremists is becoming(?) interested in running for Pres in 2012. Go for it Sarah!!! The Dems will love it if you do.

    The world is watching as the Republicans protect wall street from Dem abuse and control. Another dumb mistake by the Repubs.

    I believe that I hear the toilet to the future flushing for the Republican Party as they play puppet for the right-wing extremists.

    April 21, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  15. Jim

    Pres. Obama is a great leader because he 1) understands core issues, 2) listens to knowledgeable people, 3) cares deeply about America, 4) adjusts and adapts his tactics, and 5) communicates better than any president in recent times.

    I see Obama as more and more like Franklin Roosevelt, whom the historian James McGregor Burns called "The Lion and the Fox." FDR, like Obama, had to deal with unyielding Republican opponents in order to implement Social Security and financial regulations that all accept today.

    April 21, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  16. Larry

    Health care reform would have never happened if President Obama hadn't kept pushing, pushing, pushing. It's incorrect to say that he didn't have a leadership role. The Democrats who criticize him certainly wouldn't have gotten reform through themselves. They would have quit under the pressure of insurance, pharmaceutical and health care companies.

    I'm proud of President Obama. I've never seen a president persist in his reform policies as he has.

    I wish I had his energy, and I'm glad he has it.


    April 21, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  17. Four and The Door

    With Obama talking about financial reform, this is pretty much the fox watching the henhouse, isn't it? Fact is stranger than fiction.

    April 21, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  18. Eric in Denver

    Barry is a complete joke. Even the left is starting to realize that this guy is inexperienced and is ruining our country. November can't come quick enough. Good bye majority in the house and senate for the socialist party!!!!!!!

    April 21, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  19. Edwin

    Great job President Obama! Don't let those Republican liars stop you, expose them for what they are, keep counter punching!

    April 21, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  20. Eric in Denver

    Gwen Barack has the ex bankers working for him. Look at the number of Goldman Sachs ex employees working for him. Barack is working hard you are correct there but unfortunately he is working hard to ruin our country. Please list one accomplishment of this inexperienced president!!!

    April 21, 2010 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    Just about nothing could stick in the GOP's craw more. How's that crow tasting, guys? Getting used to it yet?

    April 21, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  22. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    President Obama & Congressional Democrats PLEASE do all you can to reign in the abuses, lawlessness and corruption on Wall Street & the Banks. It is the American Tax Payers & Consumers that get ripped off!

    April 21, 2010 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  23. 8 Years of the Bush Error = Recession and Record Unemployment for ? Years.

    Yes, President O pointing out specifically that McConnell got caught with his weenie in the deposit slot, certainly made McConnell use the word "bi-partisan support" in a complete sentence.

    Call 'em out on every lie you can President Obama, the media certainly does not.

    April 21, 2010 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  24. Anita in AZ

    The GOP have nothing left. Desperate people do desperate things. Maybe they will wake up and do whats right for this country and not their right-wing rhetoric. Maybe not.

    April 21, 2010 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  25. Cynthia - Arkansas

    God bless you President Obama! This man never stops trying to help and protect the American people. If the Republican would stop being the party of liars, and the party of no, and get busy, there is no limits to what we could do.

    April 21, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
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