John Boehner greets Obama overtures with skepticism, wants to 'trust but verify' moves toward bipartisanship
By Paul Kane
Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the recent bipartisan talk of President Obama, launching a "trust but verify" program for dealing with Democrats in the months ahead.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who hosted Obama at the Republican retreat last Friday for a rare 90-minute session of questioning the president, told reporters that Democratic leaders define bipartisanship by "unveiling their own partisan bill and then expecting the Republicans to vote for it."
"Make no mistake: Republicans will not blindly abandon our commitment to the American people and throw out our principles. Certainly not based on empty rhetoric that only came about after Democrats' agenda ran into a buzz saw of public opposition," Boehner said. "So my approach will be 'trust, but verify,' and I think the American people feel the same way."
Boehner's comments suggest that House Republican cooperation with Obama will likely continue to be very limited for the remainder of the year, despite signs of a more cordial coexistence in the wake of Friday's session in Baltimore. Boehner and a bipartisan group of congressional leaders are expected to sit down next week with Obama for the first of what are planned monthly meetings in the West Wing. And Obama has, for the second year in a row, invited a bipartisan collection of lawmakers to the White House to watch Sunday's Super Bowl.
Despite those steps, early indications were that progress would be fleeting on substantive matters.
All 175 House Republicans who were present Thursday afternoon voted against a $1.9 trillion increase to the national debt limit, leading to a razor-thin 217-212 passage of the bill. Senate Republicans sped up the swearing-in of Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R-Mass.), scheduled for late Thursday afternoon, in order to break the Democratic filibuster-proof majority and block a presidential nominee to the National Labor Relations Board. GOP aides privately griped that Obama's monthly meetings are not all that different from those held by George W. Bush earlier this decade, which were held at least every other month and produced very little in the way of bipartisan results.
Since Brown's stunning victory in a special election Jan. 19, Obama has delivered a series of talks about reaching across the aisle, most recently Wednesday in second televised question-and-answer session, held with Senate Democrats. Republicans contended that Obama's more recent remarks were designed to impugn GOP efforts at outreach.
"The president turned around this week and claimed Republicans are just 'sitting on the sidelines.' I saw one headline that said, 'Obama blasts GOP.' It's not hard to figure out the shell game that's going on here. I know bipartisanship when I see it. It's not saying one thing and doing another," Boehner said.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a senior Democratic leader, said he hopes the new Obama effort will set up a clash of ideas between the two parties, ending what he called "a free rein [for Republicans] in attacking the Obama agenda."
"What we've been saying to the White House is not that Republicans are the 'Party of No'. It's that they're the 'Party of No New Ideas'. We're going to have an argument about what these guys would do if you handed the keys to the car back to them," Van Hollen said.
Web Politics Editor
February 4, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Capitol Briefing , Economy , Health Care
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