President Barack Obama used a pair of hometown fundraisers Thursday to defend Democratic control of the Senate against potential gains in the fall mid-term elections by what he called “ideologically rigid” Republicans.
Donors paid as much as $35,000 for a ticket to the campaign events for Illinois’ senior senator, Dick Durbin, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Obama warned that if Democrats fail to hold the Senate and make gains in the Republican-led House, it could stall immigration reform as well as efforts to raise the minimum wage and combat global warming.
“You have a president who is fighting for you in the White House,” Obama said at the first event, thrown by Michael Polsky, the president and CEO of Invenergy at his Gold Coast home. “What you do not have right now is a Congress that can function.”
Noting that some voters look at a gridlocked Washington and say, “a plague on both their houses,” Obama said it was a “false equivalence, that, ‘Oh, Congress is broken’” as he again defended his signature health care program against repeated Republican attempts to try to repeal it.
“The problem is not Dick Durbin. The problem is not Michael Bennet,” Obama said, referring to the Colorado senator who heads the DSCC. “The problem is not that Democrats are overly ideological.”
Instead, Obama contended, “The problem in Congress is very specific. We have a group of folks in the Republican Party, who have taken over, who are so ideologically rigid.”
The Republican National Committee issued a statement chiding Obama for fundraising for Durbin and for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada during the investigation of secret wait lists for care at Veterans Affairs facilities. Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, faces Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove in the Nov. 4 election.
At the first event, Obama joked about the return of warmer weather to Chicago since his last visit in early April, as well as how he has aged during the presidency.
“I’m looking around and I see a lot of friends,” Obama said. “All of you look the same, and I look like Morgan Freeman.”
The president also attended a fundraiser at the Lincoln Park home of wealthy Democratic donor Fred Eychaner, the founder of Newsweb Corp. who helped bankroll last year’s successful push to legalize gay marriage in Illinois.
“I need a new congress. But at minimum I have to have a Democratic Senate," Obama told donors at the second event.
Obama was greeted upon Air Force One’s arrival at O’Hare International Airport by Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his former chief of staff. Emanuel then joined Obama aboard the president’s Marine One helicopter for the ride to Montrose Beach.
The two men emerged deep in conversation and stood together for about five minutes in the parking lot where Obama was seen doing a great deal of gesturing, though the subject was of their talk was not known.
Obama is scheduled to leave Chicago on Friday morning to return to the White House.
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