Obama bemoans partisanship at Democratic fundraiser

While raising money to pay off the DNC's debts from his 2012 campaign, President Obama said he had hoped his election (or re-election!) would end partisan stalemates.

Ann Heisenfelt / AP
Air Force Col. Bill Knight, right, greets President Barack Obama at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Monday, May 13, 2013, before Obama boarded Air Force One before departing to New York City for private fundraisers.

Huddling with A-list celebrities and top re-election donors, President Barack Obama bemoaned the partisan forces that have stymied compromise in Washington as he raised campaign cash for Democrats in New York.

At a cozy suppertime fundraiser Monday, Obama said he had hoped his election in 2008 might "break the fever" of partisanship and gridlock that has stood in the way of his agenda. When those hopes proved unfounded, he looked to his re-election, believing a second consecutive victory might deliver the final blow.

"It's not quite broken yet," Obama said to laughter from some of the 60 donors who gathered in the home of film producer Harvey Weinstein, a major donor and bundler for Obama's re-election campaign. "I am persistent, and I am staying at it."

The star-studded fundraiser was the first of three events Obama headlined Monday in New York, making good on his commitment to go all out for Democrats ahead of the 2014 elections. Pop icons Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were among those who nibbled on desserts in a modest living room in Weinstein's West Village brownstone.

Obama said he genuinely believes some congressional Republicans are open to compromise, but they fear the party's conservative base and what talk show host Rush Limbaugh might say about them. At the same time, he pushed back against Democrats who want Obama to react by adopting a more defiant Democratic tone.

"My intentions over the next 3 1/2 years are to govern, because I don't have another race left," Obama said. "If we've got folks on the other side who are prepared to cooperate, that is great and we are ready to go."

But if Republicans show their top priority is winning elections, Obama said, he wants to make sure Democrats can exact consequences come Election Day.

At an evening event in a nearby neighborhood, Obama said he expected an immigration overhaul was possible this year. He reflected on his March trip to Israel, telling a group including prominent Jewish donors there's a deep desire for peace among Israelis and Palestinians, although "the window for opportunity is growing smaller by the day."

The fundraising jaunt comes at a difficult time for Obama, whose administration is facing heated questions over the handling of a deadly assault on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, and an admission by the Internal Revenue Service that tea party groups were singled out for scrutiny. Meanwhile, Obama's months-long campaign to forge closer ties with lawmakers from both parties by courting them at dinners, on the phone and at the golf course has yielded dubious results. His second-term efforts to enact new gun control laws and avert automatic spending cuts were both thwarted by bitter disagreements in Congress.

Tickets started at $16,200 for two events benefiting the Democratic National Committee, which is still retiring debt it incurred last year during Obama's re-election.

Obama also appeared at a joint fundraiser for the House and Senate Democratic campaign committees, where he told about 140 donors at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel that the fate of his agenda rests largely on whether Democrats can shore up their Senate majority and reclaim control of the House. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was among the guests at the surf-and-turf dinner, where donors paid $7,500 to attend or $32,400 to chair the event.

Monday's fundraisers are among at least 20 fundraisers that Democratic officials say Obama has committed to headlining ahead of the 2014 elections — many of them outside Washington.

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