Tales from the Trail

Democratic congressman says he wants to make Obama ‘a better president’

March 14, 2011

Veteran Democratic Congressman John Conyers voiced some disappointment in President Barack Obama — and said he wants to help the leader of his party to do better. USA/

In a speech at the National Press Club on Monday, Conyers criticized Obama on a number of fronts — from his overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system and management of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to agreeing to Republican demands last year to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, was first elected to Congress in 1964 — three years before after Obama was born. He backs Obama, but says, “I just want to make him a better president.”

Conyers is not alone in his complaints. A number of Democrats in Congress have expressed frustration with Obama, particularly for what they describe as his failure to push harder on liberal issues.

“The recent debate on healthcare has allowed opponents of the new law to say we have gone too far — when the truth is we have not gone far enough,” said Conyers, a backer of “a single payer” approach that would have a greater government involvement in delivery of health care.

“We’ve been in Afghanistan and Iraq for a decade and it’s time to leave both,” he said.

“Jobs cost House Democrats the election last year and could next cost (Democrats) the Senate and the presidency in 2012 unless we address the issue,” he said. “Pandering by giving Republicans more tax cuts is the wrong strategy that has not worked for the last 10 years to create jobs.”

Conyers also complained about the failure of Congress to crack down on gun violence following the attempted assassination of one of its own members, Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, in Arizona in January.

But he praised Obama for writing an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star that urged the country to do more to curb gun violence, such as stricter enforcement of existing laws.

“I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place,” the president wrote.

Conyers called Obama’s op-ed “an excellent first step.”

Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Conyers at a hearing, July 2008)

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