President Obama continues to feel the heat from fellow party members.
Today, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand criticized Obama for failing to show leadership on the fight against military sex crimes, saying he didn’t live up to his December 2013 promise to force an overhaul of the Defense Department’s judicial system if it didn’t make progress within a year.
“A year has long passed and we haven’t seen the kind of changes that we need.” Gillibrand said. “I do not believe they are taking the issue as seriously as they should and they should not be resisting the professionalization of the military justice system.”
She made these remarks after the Senate voted down an amendment she sponsored that would change the way sexual assault is prosecuted in the military, removing it from the military justice chain of command.
Gillibrand’s public, Democrat-vs-Democrat rebuke comes just days after Obama’s top ally and House democratic leader Nancy Pelosi delivered a stinging blow to the administration by voting against two related trade bills.
Pelosi had been seen as a silent ally to Obama and Republicans running the House in promoting Obama’s trade agenda, though she kept her position secret until the end of Friday’s debate, when she stunned observers by saying she would vote against the bills.
Pelosi said her opposition was to win a broader fight. “Our people would rather have a job than trade assistance,” she said, adding that that while she supported a bill to help workers who lost their job because of foreign trade, she opposed fast-track legislation — which would allow the president to negotiate trade deals with limited Congressional interference — which prevented her from supporting the bills in the House from going forward.
“I will be voting today to slow down the Fast Track, to get a better deal for the American people — bigger paychecks, better infrastructure, help the American people fulfill the American dream,” she explained.
After Pelosi’s bombshell, intra-party resistance to Obama’s trade efforts continued as Hilary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential election, appeared to back the Democratic leader over President Obama. While Clinton made no specific statement on her position, she did mention Pelosi’s efforts to challenge Obama’s free trade deal negotiations twice.
“The president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi, who have expressed their concerns about the impact a weak agreement would have on our workers, to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible,” Clinton said. “And if we don’t get it, there should be no deal.”
Today in the Senate, Gillibrand’s amendment failed, but Democratic opposition to President Obama on trade, military sexual assault and other issues is likely to continue.