Cracks are appearing in the facade of Democratic unity as more constituency groups and Democratic legislators take issue with President Obama's policies and, in some cases, urge him to get more aggressive in confronting his opponents.
These differences were submerged as party members and Obama allies tried to demonstrate unity in dealing with congressional Republicans. But now that key decisions are approaching on a variety of issues, from trade policy to the environment, the divisions are bursting into the open. The looming mid-term elections are also making some Democratic legislators jumpy as they assess whether Obama's views match up with public opinion in their states.
Among the most potentially troublesome concerns for Obama is a clash with environmentalists, who backed him solidly in the last election. Some leaders of the environmental movement thought Obama neglected their priorities in his State of the Union address last week. And 18 environmental organizations have sent Obama a letter arguing that the administration isn't doing enough to limit climate change. The groups, including the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, want Obama to confront the coal industry and other businesses that specialize in fossil fuel development.
At the same time, Democrats in coal-producing states are leery about the administration's announced intention to fight climate change by imposing limits on coal-burning power plants.
And there is considerable concern among Democrats in conservative states, such as Louisiana and Arkansas, that Obama will disapprove the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which is designed to transport oil from Canada to the United States. At the same time, many environmentalists oppose Keystone, and they hope to pressure Obama into rejecting the project.And key Democrats are divided on trade, with some legislators and union leaders arguing that pending legislation to speed up trade agreements isn't a good deal for U.S. workers. Among the opponents of a quick vote on that "fast-track" legislation is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., putting him at odds with the White House.