Obama continues schmoozing with GOP
WASHINGTON — Punctuated with the sounds of ringing phones and clinking china, President Obama's new legislative diplomacy has Republicans wondering what took so long.
Obama pressed ahead on Thursday with his bipartisan political outreach — eliciting a cautious welcome amid gridlock and partisanship over how to lower deficits and stabilize the nation's debt.
The president had lunch with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and the committee's top Democrat, Chris Van Hollen, at the White House.
The lunch was a day after he dined with a dozen Republican senators in what the White House said was an effort to find common ground with rank-and-file lawmakers. Few were willing to guarantee that the engagements would yield results.
Previous presidents have tried to develop relationships with members of Congress with varying degrees of success. Some of the biggest pieces of legislation — such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and a Social Security deal in 1983 — required cross-party efforts by Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, respectively.
“We're not naive about the challenges that we still face — they exist,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “And there are differences.”
Obama has negotiated directly in the past with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in hopes of finding a large deficit-reduction deal. The efforts, though, have faltered as the president pursued deals with tax increases, which Republicans oppose. Most recently, neither side worked hard to avoid $85 billion in automatic spending cuts and, instead, devolved into partisan finger-pointing over which side is more to blame.
Boehner said Obama's new approach represents a 180-degree turn.
“He is going to, after being in office now over four years, he is actually going to sit down and talk to members,” Boehner said. “I think it is a sign, a hopeful sign, and I'm hopeful that something will come out of it. But if the president continues to insist on tax hikes, I don't think we're going to get very far.”
Carney argued that Obama's new talks with congressional Republicans doesn't signal a shift as much as an attempt to seize an opportunity after automatic spending cuts kicked in last Saturday but months before another fiscal deadline looms.
In briefing reporters, Carney noticeably dialed back his criticism of Republicans and emphasized the “common ground” between the parties.
“The fact is, this should have been happening all along,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., one of the dozen Republicans who joined Obama for dinner Wednesday at a hotel near the White House.
Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, a veteran of Washington politics who got an ice-breaking call from Obama during the weekend, said he appreciates his talk with Obama but said that type of engagement should have occurred much sooner.
“He's the first president in my experience — and I've known or worked with eight — who's had almost no personal relationships here in the Senate, on either side as far as I can tell,” Alexander said.
Obama may be attempting his charm blitz later than most presidents do.
Senate Historian Donald Ritchie said that Reagan, during his first year in office, called every member of Congress.
“His congressional liaison found that that worked against him in the long run because members of Congress expected the president to call them on every issue,” Ritchie said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- EPA works on algae rules to protect from toxins found in lakes, rivers
- Washington project ensures long-term carbon storage
- Sex offender checks in with stolen boarding pass, authorities say
- Red tape blamed for lack of domestic fish farms
- Democrats face long odds in battle for lost congressional seats
- Hawaii confronts dengue fever cases
- Former police officer who was indicted found dead in Massachusetts home
- LA prostitution deterrent runs afoul of rights group
- Prescription skin drug costs skyrocket
- Foreign policy expert: Obama administration should create Syria safe areas
- Healthy diet plan might not work for all, Israeli study reveals