Obama administration officials aggressively have been selling the deal they struck with congressional leaders on the Bush-era tax cuts only to find themselves the fending off body blows from both their right and left flanks.
The most jarring development came on Thursday when House Democrats voted not to bring the tax package to the House floor in its current form. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a leader of the Democratic revolt, called the deal "inherently defective" and said he and other members of his party would demand changes.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., one of the harshest critics of the tax proposal, took direct aim at the president: "Unfortunately, I think that President Obama sees the job more as negotiator-in-chief than really the leader of our country and the leader of our party," he said in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos Thursday morning, adding that he expected the president would have embarked on a persuasion tour of the country before starting negotiations with Republicans.
Earlier this week, Weiner's Democratic counterpart from New York, Rep. Gary Ackerman, put it even more bluntly: "We got screwed." And Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana called the tax plan "almost morally corrupt."
Although most Republicans embraced the provision in the compromise that temporarily extends tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, GOP leaders have not spared Obama their criticism either.
"The biggest problem I have," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., told a conservative radio talk show host this week, "is we don't need a temporary economy, which means we don't need a temporary tax rate. A permanent extension of our current tax rates would allow businesses to plan five and 10 years in advance, and that's how you build an economy."
Meanwhile, in a series of interviews. Rep. Michele Bachmann lashed out at the president, calling some of the remarks Obama made defending the plan "flat out lies" and suggesting that Republicans might not "necessarily go along with" it, particularly because of the provision that would extend benefits to the unemployed.
With Republicans about to take the reins of power in the House of Representatives, President Obama already has his work cut out for him. But even if the tax plan makes its way out of Congress and to the president's desk before the end of the year, the administration likely will find their bargaining position with members of its own party weakened.
Comments like Rep. Weiner's point to a troubling reality for the Obama White House: Not only are fellow Democrats unhappy with the substance of the tax plan, they also seem more willing publicly to challenge the effectiveness of the president's leadership. It is a line of attack that could prove damaging heading into the next election cycle.
It's not just members of Congress who have put Obama in an uncomfortable middle position in the debate over tax cuts. Groups on the right and left of the political spectrum also have been lining up to oppose the proposal.
The head of the conservative Club for Growth, Chris Chocola, called the plan "a bad deal for the American people" this week, complaining that it would "resurrect the death tax, grow government [and] blow a hole in the deficit with unpaid-for spending."
Another conservative leader, Brent Bozell, chairman of the group ForAmerica, urged lawmakers not to trust a deal that, in his words, "was brokered behind closed doors."