Obama-GOP Summit Ends, Partisan Divide Continues : It's All Politics Both sides stuck to their pre-summit talking points though Obama indicated a willingness to deal.
NPR logo Obama-GOP Summit Ends, Partisan Divide Continues

Obama-GOP Summit Ends, Partisan Divide Continues

From left, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell , House Speaker-designate John Boehner and House Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor, following their White House meeting with President Obama. Harry Hamburg/AP Photo hide caption

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Harry Hamburg/AP Photo

Well, at least Sen. Harry Reid got something concrete out of President Obama's White House summit between the president and the senior most congressional Republican and Democratic leaders.

It apparently took the summit for Obama to discover that Reid, in his nearly three decades in Washington, had never been to Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains.

It just so happened that Obama had planned to have at least one future meeting between Democratic and Republican leaders at the retreat. So Reid will finally get to the retreat.

Other then that, it appears the two sides had an amicable meeting. No Republican screamed "You lie" at the president from across the table and Obama, for his part, didn't call Republicans enemies, at least not to their faces.

But judging from the comments the president and Republican congressional leaders made after their meeting, there was virtually little give by either side. Their talking points were essentially unchanged from before the meeting.

The president once again warned that the American people aren't in the mood for officials from either party trying to gain partisan advantage. Voters want Democrats and Republicans to work together to solve the nation's problems.

OBAMA: Now, the American people did not vote for gridlock.  They didn't vote for unyielding partisanship.  They're demanding cooperation, and they're demanding progress, and they'll hold all of us -- and I mean all of us -- accountable for it.

And I was very encouraged by thefact that there was broad recognition of that fact in the room.  And I just want to say, I thought it was a productive meeting.  I thought that people came to it with a spirit of trying to work together, and Ithink it's a good start as we move forward.

I think everybody understands that the American people want us to focus on their jobs, not ours. They want us to come together around strategies to accelerate the recovery and get Americans back to work.They want us to confront the long-term deficits that cloud our future. They want us to focus on their safety and security, and not allow matters of urgent importance to become locked up in the politics of Washington.

The president said he has delegated Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew to meet with congressional leaders to discuss ways on moving forward on one of the most divisive issues between Democrats and Republicans, how to extend the Bush tax cuts.

Republican leaders agreed with Obama that the American people seek results. But, of course, the kind of results the American people desire is the crux of the problem between Republicans and Democrats.

REP: JOHN BOEHNER: I think Republicans made the point that stopping all the looming tax hikes and cutting spending would in fact create jobs and get the economy moving again.

And so we're looking forward to the conversation with the White House over extending all of the current rates, and I remain optimistic. Mitch.

SEN. MCCONNELL:  Yeah, I would only add I thought it was a useful and frank discussion.  We did have an opportunity to reiterate that it is the view of 100 percent of Senate Republicans and a number of Senate Democrats as well that the tax rates should not be bifurcated; in other words, that we ought to treat all taxpayers the same.  As John indicated, we will each designate someone to actually try to complete the agreement.

Actually, the president did sound like he was more willing to deal than the Republicans. He talked of trying to find "sensible common ground" on the tax disagreement.

OBAMA: Republican leaders want to permanently extend tax cuts not only to middle-class families but also to some of the wealthiest Americans at the same time, and here we disagree.

I believe and the other Democrats who -- in the room believe that this would add an additional $700 billion to our debt in the next 10 years.  And I continue to believe that it would be unwise and unfair, particularly at a time when we're contemplating deep budget cuts that require broad sacrifice.

Having said that, we agreed that there must be some sensible common ground.

By way of a back-handed compliment, Republicans acknowledged that it was mighty big of the president to wear the hair shirt for his role in fueling the partisan fires in Washington. Rep. Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican and the House majority leader in waiting, said:

CANTOR:  I was encouraged by the president's remarks regarding his perhaps not having reached out enough to us in the last session, and that this meeting was the beginning of a series in which he hoped that we could work together in a different fashion for the benefit of the American people given the problems that we face.

Well, maybe it will be the start of a new era of good feeling though don't hold your breath on that one.