Obama presses on with GOP charm offensive

President reaches out to Republicans.
Associated Press
Mar 8, 2013

Punctuated with the sounds of ringing phones and clinking china, President Barack Obama's new legislative diplomacy has Republicans wondering what took so long.

Obama pressed ahead Thursday with his bipartisan political outreach, eliciting a cautious welcome in a capital that has been riven by gridlock and partisanship over how to lower deficits and stabilize the nation's debt.

Obama had the Republican House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan, and the committee's top Democrat, Chris Van Hollen, to lunch at the White House, 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 engagement would yield results. Previous presidents have tried to develop relationships with members of Congress with varying degrees of success, though 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.

"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 in hopes of finding a large deficit reduction deal, but those efforts have faltered as the president pursued deals with tax increases that 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 was more to blame.

Boehner said Obama's new approach represented 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 did not 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. But in briefing reporters Thursday, Carney noticeably dialed back his criticism of Republicans and emphasized the "common ground" that existed 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 night at a hotel a few blocks from the White House.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a veteran of Washington politics who got an ice-breaking call from Obama this week, said he appreciated 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.ms

Obama may be attempting his charm blitz later than most presidents do. Some presidents have found common ground with opponents sooner, others have not. Former Republican Senate leader Trent Lott, speaking at the 2009 ceremony unveiling his majority leader's portrait in the Senate, said he and President Bill Clinton maintained a friendly relationship even though they quarreled bitterly in public.

"Even if I did or said something stupid — or vice versa, excuse me, Mr. President — the main thing about it is that quite often we'd call one or the other and we'd laugh about it," Lott said as Clinton smiled and nodded at his side.

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.

Indeed, Ritchie said, no matter what the relationship is between a president and Congress, lawmakers inevitably complain that presidential outreach is not enough and presidents regularly argue that members of Congress demand too much.

Obama's outreach comes as Senate Democrats appeared to move toward easing passage for a spending measure to pay for day-to-day federal operations through September. Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said there's a "delicate balance" between supporting Obama administration priorities and going too far as to "sink the bill."

Mikulski said the Senate would give agencies including the Agriculture, Homeland Security and Justice departments their detailed, line-by-line budgets as part of legislation advancing next week to head off a government shutdown at the end of March. Other agencies would run on autopilot essentially at last year's funding levels. The automatic cuts — 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon — would apply whether or not an agency received its detailed budget.

The House passed its version of the legislation Wednesday.

Obama plans to address Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate separately next week, the next step in his approach to spell out his agenda to lawmakers.

White House aides say the effort to reach out to rank-and-file members is designed to let the president explain his policies without the filter of party leaders, with whom he has dealt with in the past.

Along with Corker, the lawmakers in attendance at Wednesday's dinner were Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Dan Coats of Indiana, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Mike Johanns of Nebraska.

 

Comments

Contango

Behind closed doors Pres. BHO is "charming," but he'll continue to bash and demagogue the Repubs in public?

How is that not neurotic and dysfunctional?

Where and what are the specific "cuts" Pres. Obama? Where's the budget?

The Big Dog's back

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

Contango

Right outa the box comes Big Dog’s Law : BD will eventually write something off the subject and half-witted.

deertracker

"BD will eventually write something off the subject and half-witted." You know LOTS about that too!

Contango

@ deertracker:

Thanks for another example of BD's Law since your post is ALSO off-topic and half-witted. :)

deertracker

Truth hurts eh? Dry it up and move on!

Contango

@ deertracker:

Still with the off-topic, nit-witted posts eh?

The Big Dog's back

Words spoken from a true off topic poster.

coasterfan

That's odd, I thought BD's comment was right on topic.

Fromthe419

I applaud BHO for reaching across the aisle, however I think this is more artifice and political theater. No one is willing to tackle the real issues that are plaguing our nation. Until entitlements are addressed nothing will be accomplished. They have created generational warfare, spend today and pass it on to the next generation. It's kind of the reverse of what we are seeing at the local level. If we don't spend (levies) we are screwing our youth, and on the national level if we don't give entitlements to the senior citizens and dump the bill on our youth the seniors are screwed. Unfortunately, our leadership stole the SSI money to fund wars, build bridges or whatever. Unfortunately, I think we are past the tipping point....the world will not allow the United States reach 20T in national debt.

coasterfan

I don't think we can call Medicare an entitlement, since senior citizens PAID INTO that system via paycheck deduction for decades. The way it is supposed to work is that the young and middle class pay into the system, and then reap the benefits when they reach retirement age. Those problem, of course, is that all the baby boomers are reaching retirement age in increasing numbers, so there isn't enough funding to support the system as it currently is. I think we all agree on that.

Democrats believe that we should find a way to keep the system as is, and provide the benefits that the baby boomers were promised, and do so by increasing revenue into the system. Although most of us aren't rich, we understand that taxes are currently at an all time low during the past 40 years, so we working folks should all contribute a bit more, via taxes. Republicans focus on two things alone: lower r
Taxes and the federal deficit (and have cared only about the latter since 2009), and seemingly find nothing else to be of importance. They worry about the future, but only as it relates to the budget. They care not about funding education today (which has obvious implications for the future), maintaining our infrastructure, government oversight/regulations for such things as clean air, water, safe food supply (which obviously affect us all today and in the future).

I hear conservatives complain about Obama being a tax & spend Democrat. Those of us who pay attention to what actually is happening know that spending increased and ave. of 8% pe r year under Bush compared to less than 2% per year under Obama. We also realize that to increase spending, while decreasing income (as Bush did) is equal parts irresponsible and stupid. If you don't like "tax and spend", you certainly shouldn't support "cut taxes and spend more" as was the Bush mantra.

Contango

coasterfan writes:

"Democrats believe that we should find a way to keep the system as is, and provide the benefits that the baby boomers were promised, and do so by increasing revenue into the system."

Enjoy reading your "magical" thinking.

Pay more in taxes? Why did Pres. BHO just recently "lock-in" 99% of the Bush era tax cuts? hum?

If spending has decreased under Pres. BHO, why is the federal debt on track to increase to $17T in '13?

Again, you're adding in the repaid TARP funds with interest and counting them as revenue.

Medicaid and Medicare? The distinction is "earned" and "unearned" entitlements.

anthras

Coasterfan, You stated that the young and middle class pay into the system and then reap the benefits when they reach retirement age but the problem is that all the baby boomers are reaching the retirement age at increasing numbers.If the baby boomers are reaching the retirement age at increasing numbers then via your theory would they not have at one time been young and middle class and paid into the system at increasing numbers ?????????

Actually I did do much better with what I saved and invested myself and when I die my social security will be done what I have invested and grew on my own will be passed on to my children.

bucknut36

Pres. Obama doesn't need to "demagogue" the Republicans. Today's GOP is a joke. They turn their backs on qualified people like Chris Christie or John Huntsman and embrace the extreme right. C Pac invited Sara Palin, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Palin&Santorum really? Why not invite Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Nugent and Michelle Bachman?

Contango

@ bucknut36:

So your argument is: If only the Repubs were more socialist like the Dems that you'd be voting for 'em?

So you don't believe that the Dems have more than their share of extremist "loons"?

Again: What are the specifics of Pres. BHO's entitlement "cuts"? Got any facts and figures?

deertracker

Will you give it a rest with all the socialist crap? I don't believe even you really believe what you write sometimes. You sound like a bitter grumpy old man. People like you won't be happy until the less fortunate among us are starving and dying with less dignity than a dog. Is that really who you are? The CONS had their chance to fix things for eight long years but things got worse. When are you and your CON buddies going to admit that? You talk about facts and figures but you cherry pick what you want to believe. Your constant gloom and doom posts are really OLD!

Contango

@ deertracker:

Try to wrap that simplemindedness around the topic for once woulda?

Where and what are the facts and figures behind the entitlement "cuts" to which Pres. BHO has alluded?

The Big Dog's back

I so agree deertracker.

shucks

Well said, deertracker.
I wonder if he had a stroke at one time.

anthras

I do think that if you take a real good look at the socialists countries there would most likely be more less fortunate starving and dying than in this country.Of course the persons in the socialists governments seem to do well

coasterfan

Yeah, the current cast of Republican leaders are a freak show. The interesting thing is, they refuse to adapt. Instead of learning from their 2012 loss, they dug their heels in, and continue to alienate the voters they most need to attract. Anyone who dares to speak with a more centrist, open view (one that might actually attract some new voters to their cause) is immediately branded an outcast. How else to explain their ostracism of Christie this past month, while still embracing the same old 2008-2011 cast that a majority of Americans rejected?

It's ok by me. The more stubborn they remain, the easier it will be for Democrats to continue their recent winning ways 5 of past 6 elections / popular vote. Doesn't the GOP of 2013 remind you of the Democrat party of the 1980's? Adrift with no direction... And you can sense the palpable anger among the conservatives who post here, which is rather amusing at times.

Contango

coasterfan writes:

"Doesn't the GOP of 2013 remind you of the Democrat party of the 1980's? Adrift with no direction..."

You answered your own question and didn't realize it. History is a pendulum, it always swings back.

"When life looks like easy street there is danger at your door."

- "Uncle John's Band", Grateful Dead.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T...

whocares

In three more years the freebes will be over. No cash to cover them or Government pensions. Then the next President can blame Barry.

There you go again

Enough of the fair share crap. Obama (and hia cronies) take more than their fair share. I mean his expenditure exceed anyone's fair share But then again what is "fair share" anyway?

Woody Hayes

Contango,
Did you vote for Romney in 2012? How did that work out?

Contango

Nope.

herbie_hancock

Did you vote for Obama in 2008 and 2012? Hows that working out?

The Big Dog's back

Great! Lowest unemployment in 4 years! The economy is moving forward, not Repub, I mean reverse.

mikel

Thanks to pres. Bush! If all of the ills of the last 8 years are Bush's fault according to you then let's give him credit as well.

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