GOP Sends Mixed Signals On Obama’s Outreach Effort
House Republicans are sending mixed signals in agreeing to meet with President Barack Obama for talks over the budget impasse.
On the one hand, many Republicans who long have chided Obama for failing to engage their party on the nation’s biggest problems are applauding his newfound outreach — part of a concerted effort by the president to mend ties with Congress in hopes of reaching a grand compromise on fiscal issues.
On the other hand, neither side is backing down from entrenched positions that have prevented deals in the past.
Exhibit A: the House GOP’s new budget proposal, crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who ran against Obama as the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee but broke bread with him last week as the president initiated his congressional “charm offensive.”
Ryan and House Republicans, who were to meet with Obama at the Capitol on Wednesday, put forward their 2014 budget fully mindful that it would be dead on arrival at the White House and in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The plan, which the White House immediately panned, doubles down on longstanding Republican proposals to slash funding for programs Obama and Democrats sorely want to protect. It includes a repeal of Obama’s health care law — a major component of his legacy — and Medicare changes that would shift more of the cost to future patients.
At the same time, Obama hasn’t budged from his insistence that any budget include new tax revenues — the key sticking point in February’s failed attempt to avert $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that both parties agreed made for bad policy. And Senate Democrats were to unveil a counterproposal Wednesday that aides said would raise taxes by almost $1 trillion and would use savings to repeal the automatic spending cuts — a nonstarter for House Republicans.
The resolve from both sides to dig in their heels on the most contentious issues raises an important question about Obama’s efforts to make nice with Republicans: What’s the point?
“We’re not naive. There are disagreements and obstacles,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “But the president is at the head of this effort because he believes deeply in it.”
In reaching out to lawmakers, Obama hopes to attract more moderate elements from both parties in Congress to deal comprehensively with the nation’s long-term fiscal imbalance. The fence-mending campaign started with a dinner Obama hosted last week at a hotel near the White House for a dozen Senate Republicans and continues this week with the House GOP meeting Wednesday and a pair of closed-door sessions with House Democrats and Senate Republicans on Thursday.
In interviews and on Sunday talk shows, many Republicans on the receiving end of Obama’s overtures have praised the president for making an effort — even if they feel it’s too little, too late.
“We welcome it,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. “I told the president on Friday I hope he’ll invite all of our members down for these dinners.”
But other Republicans are refusing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.