Republicans urge Obama: Work with us and stop attacks

Associated Press

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, greet President Barack Obama on Capitol Hill before meeting with the Senate Republican caucus in Washington on Thursday.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Polite yet firm, Senate Republicans told President Barack Obama on Thursday to tone down his political attacks and prod Democratic allies to support controversial changes in Medicare if he wants a compromise reducing deficits and providing stability to federal benefit programs.

Associated Press

President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leave a meeting with House Democrats at the Capitol, in Washington, with at far left, Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., second from left. Obama has hosted dinners and lunches and visited Capitol Hill over three days in his outreach effort with Congress. Lawmakers say it will take putting the entire force of the White House operation behind opening lines of communication if the effort is to stand any chance of bearing fruit.

Participants at a 90-minute closed-door meeting said Obama acknowledged the point without yielding ground — and noted that Republicans criticize him freely. "To quote an old Chicago politician, 'Politics ain't beanbag,'" the president said.

The discussion came as Obama wrapped up a highly publicized round of meetings with rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties and both houses of Congress in hopes of building support for a second-term agenda of deficit reduction, immigration overhaul and gun control.

Obama met separately with Senate Republicans and House Democrats as legislation to lock in $85 billion in spending cuts and avert a government shutdown on March 27 made plodding progress. Separately the two parties advanced rival longer-term budgets in both houses.

No breakthroughs had been anticipated and none was reported in the closed-door sessions, although Obama told reporters before returning to the White House, "We're making progress."

In the Senate, several Republicans told the president his rhetoric was not conducive to compromise.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota referred to a recent interview in which Obama said some Republicans want to eviscerate Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "Nobody here believes those programs ought to be gutted," Thune told Obama, the senator later recalled.

"It's better if the president is here fully engaged with us than traveling around the country saying Congress isn't doing its job," Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming later told reporters, summarizing comments he and others had made. "The president needs to be here working side by side with Congress."

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said the message to Obama had been: "Step one is to work with us, not just heckle and taunt us on the campaign trail, and step two is to lead." The Tennessee lawmaker said Obama must also "go against the grain in his own party," much as Lyndon Johnson did in winning civil rights legislation from Congress in the 1960s or Richard Nixon did in forging an opening with China in the 1970s.

Obama has repeatedly told Republicans in recent days he supports curtailing the growth of cost-of-living benefits for Social Security and other benefit programs as part of a compromise, as well as raising costs for wealthier Medicare beneficiaries.

He has also told them they must agree to raise revenue — although not tax rates — as part of any deal.

So far, at least, Republicans have noted that proposals to overhaul Medicare include higher premiums or copays on wealthier seniors. Some also have said they could accept higher revenues as part of tax reform that stimulates economic growth.

Neither approach is likely to guarantee enough revenue to satisfy Obama or congressional Democrats. The president said as much later in the day. According to one lawmaker, he told House Democrats in a separate meeting they need not worry about slowing the rise in cost of living benefits because Republicans so far show no willingness to raise revenues.

If nothing else, the reviews of Obama's meeting with Senate Republicans were uniformly positive.

"We'll see where we go from here, but it was a great meeting," said GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who normally is one of the president's sharpest critics in Congress.

Senators emerging from meetings with Obama said the discussions had ranged over the fate of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, regulatory concerns, fracking, deficit reduction and more.

The president declined to be pinned down on the fate of the Keystone Pipeline, which supporters hope to build to ship Canadian oil to the United States. Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota said Obama pledged only to make a decision before the end of the year on the project, which is opposed by environmentalists but supported by some labor unions.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., mentioned the Navajo Generating Station, a power plant in Page, Ariz., where the Environmental Protection Agency is requiring the facility's owner to spend $1.1 billion to upgrade emissions controls. Flake recently wrote that a separate federal agency recently said that even with the change, it couldn't guarantee there would be "any perceptible improvement in visibility at the Grand Canyon and other national parks and wilderness areas."

While Obama completed his closed-door round of meetings, the Senate slowly worked its way through a bill that locks in $85 billion in spending cuts through the end of the budget year while guaranteeing there won't be a government shutdown.

In a show of bipartisanship, leading senators in both parties agreed to provide flexibility for the departments of Commerce, State, Justice and Homeland Security in apportioning the spending cuts, just as the House did with the Pentagon in its version of the bill.

But there were limits to cooperation — most evidently as Republicans attacked a budget by Senate Democrats that relies on $1 trillion in higher taxes over a decade, makes relatively modest changes to Medicare and envisions deficits indefinitely into the future.

Because Democrats want to restore $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over the same period — cuts imposed by Washington's failure to strike a broader budget pact — the blueprint authored by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington increases spending slightly when compared with current policies.

McConnell labeled the plan a "left-wing manifesto masquerading as a budget."

Democrats on Thursday evening pushed Murray's budget through the Budget Committee on a 12-10 party-line vote, setting up a clash on the Senate floor next week.

A rival plan is expected to come to the Republican-controlled House next week after its approval in committee Wednesday evening. Democrats were as harsh in criticizing it as Republicans were in condemning theirs. The GOP plan cuts $4.6 trillion and eliminates deficits over a decade without any tax increase.

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Comments

Ken Perry's picture

Why

Why is it so bad for the GOP to ask for balanced budgets, lower taxes and accountability?? The Libs just want to raise taxes keep spending and sit home and collect their State checks, talk on their Free Cell Phones and eat food bought with food stamps get their reduced electricity or free rent and just whine in general. They seem to hate the GOP because if they/when they take control back their might be some jobs created and they would have to actually get a Job and support themselves.

Zack Lenhert's picture

Not sure if sarcasm... or

Not sure if sarcasm... or irony.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Work with us

Funny how that only goes one way with them. When they don't get what they want, they don't work at all. They go on vacation and leave town. Obstruction is not the way you work with someone. In the first two years of his administration Obama was on a "Friendship tour" gladhanding Republicans and trying to find middle ground all over the place. The only result was the election of 2010 in which Democrats saw no reason to go to the polls. Unless he wants a repeat of this in 2014, he needs to show that he has learned from his mistakes. Sadly, we are still stuck with Harry Reid, the fillibuster king. The Republicans not only fillibustered the Secretary of Defense while we are at war but they are now fillibustering the head of Consumer Protection, the ATF, and every other government agency they want to shut down. Congress is working on a finance bill to keep the entire government from shutting down and Republicans have loaded it with a bunch of NRA bills, one to keep the ATF from requiring gun manufacturers from keeping inventory. How handy to let them secretly sell weapons to cartels and terrrorists and to avoid the IRS. Other bills would allow gun dealer licenses to people who don't sell guns and expand the definition and exemptions for "Antique guns" altogether protecting the Gangbangers' Bill of Rights. This is not working together. It's obstruction.

ANTHONY NAZAR's picture

Hutzpah

Mr. President, Democrats may have defeated us in the race for the WH, picked up seats they were supposed to lose in the Senate and gained seats in the House actually outpolling us in total votes cast -

BUT

we answer to a higher power - The Koch/Adelson Gang - and they want us to get rid of Obamacare because they can't make enough money out of it.

So, you take two steps toward us, we'll take two steps away from you and then we howl to our media outlet, Fox, that you're not doing enough to reach a "compromise."

John Goddard's picture

The bully claiming to be the victim.

the GOP has no respect for the pres, constantly attacking him on their favorite network. Filibuster everything, Pass nonsense fantasy land' bills in the House, The thing to do, is fight back. But when he does, the GOP is the sissy and cries victim. Vote them all out...

Bob White's picture

Your comment sounds like your

Your comment sounds like your talking about a president of years past (2000-2008) how do you like it. But its funny with your type its always their fault GOP maybe if you werent blind with hate maybe you could see that their could be compromise. Im sure you will miss the point.

John Goddard's picture

"My type" What category would that be ?

When the majority of the people voted for the Democrats vision, and not the GOP's vision, than it is the losing party that must shift towards the opposing party. It is what the majority had voted for. If the Romney-Ryan vision had won with the majority of the people's votes, than the Dem's must shift towards them. Otherwise, our votes do not matter.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Quite possibly the most

Quite possibly the most ridiculous post I've ever read. You do realize how close the popular vote was don't you? Throw out all the fraudulent votes from illegal aliens and dead people and the GOP wins in a landslide. Have you ever wondered why the Democratic party is so vehemently opposed to voter fraud legislation? Exactly.

Bob White's picture

Thats ridiculous so we

Thats ridiculous so we through out the idea of a democracy?

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