President Obama met for more than hour with the executive committee of the AFL-CIO Tuesday morning, the same day he would sign the deal raising the debt ceiling, averting disaster, but angering the labor movement—a core Democratic constituency.
Labor leaders are concerned about the $2.4 trillion deficit reduction plan, most notably the "super committee" made up of 12 members of Congress - six Republicans and six Democrats – tasked with recommending more cuts to the U.S. debt. The committee could lead to cuts to entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, probably the biggest worry about the deal to the labor movement. Unions are also concerned that there were not tax increases, a win for congressional Republicans.
Although they are upset about the plan, with one lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees saying they "hate it," most of the labor organizations that spoke with ABC News believe that Obama and Democratic members of Congress had to support the legislation to avert disaster and were cautious not to criticize the president, instead blaming Republican members of Congress. But some said the president could have gone a different route.
Former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Andy Stern used more pointed language, telling ABC News that the president needs to work on the "reality" of getting Americans back to work including working on a jobs bill with Congress, organizing "his administration to create a sense of urgency" about the need for job creation, and "work with the Senate particularly to do everything in his power to turn the focus on jobs."
"I would say we had three situations where the president thought he had a plan, each time he failed. He tried to use reason. He now realizes he's dealing with unreasonable people," Stern said. "The issue is he needs to do something differently and to me that is be serious, committed, and focused not on the rhetoric of jobs but putting into place the reality of job creation."
Stern added, "I think people want to believe the president understands that solving the debt ceiling didn't create one more job, it actually will cause a loss of jobs and people are looking to him to lead."
Stern said Obama is working with Republicans who "want him to fail," citing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's pledge to make sure Obama is a one-term president.
"The president is not dealing with people who have a reasoned approach to solve problems. Many want to remove him electorally from office, and they want him to fail," Stern said. "People want to defeat Obama and he wants to respond reasonably and do what is good for the country. This is hardball, not pattycake. People have different motivations and conversations."
Stern added that the White House would benefit from some new advice, "I think the president has a very strong group of advisors that he feels very comfortable with and they think they have a plan. I'm always willing to provide my advice, but I think right now they feel like they know what they want to do, despite indications that they need someone's new thinking."
When leaving the White House, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka did not criticize the president when talking to reporters, but laid the blame of his unhappiness with the deal squarely on the shoulders of House Republicans.