News Column

Obama Reaches Out to Republicans

March 8, 2013

President Obama and congressional Republicans say they are hopeful about new White House outreach efforts, but don't yet know whether they will translate to legislative reality.

After a flurry of phone calls, a private dinner with Republican senators and a White House lunch with a key House member, Obama and the GOP remain divided over whether a new debt reduction plan should include new taxes.

"That's the challenge," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., one of a dozen Republican senators who dined with Obama on Wednesday. "That's exactly why we've got to stay at it."

Obama, looking for an alternative to sequestration, $85 billion in budget cuts that took effect March1, lunched Thursday with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md, the committee's top Democrat.

The lunch came a day after the dinner with Republican senators and within days of Obama's calls to other GOP lawmakers.

Obama continues to push for a debt-reduction agreement that includes more targeted budget cuts and increased tax revenue by eliminating loopholes that benefit the wealthy; Republicans oppose higher taxes, saying they would slow economic growth.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, described the dinner and other outreach efforts as hopeful signs -- "but if the president continues to insist on tax hikes, I don't think we're going to get very far."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama will continue talking to Republicans about a "balanced" plan that includes both cuts and new revenue. "We'll see where these conversations lead. What the president hopes is that there is a spirit of compromise."

In a telephone interview, Hoeven said the parties have a "four- to five-month window" to reach an agreement. After that, they are likely to be sidetracked by discussions on raising the debt ceiling and early campaigning for the 2014 congressional elections.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters