After today’s White House summit, Republican leaders returned to Capitol Hill “encouraged” by President Obama’s admission that he needs to reach out more to the GOP and hopeful that they will now be able to find “common ground.”
“We had a very nice meeting today. Of course, we've had a lot of very nice meetings. The question is can we find the common ground the American people expect us to find?” said House Speaker-designate John Boehner at a brief photo-op with GOP leaders this afternoon.
Both Boehner and the number-two House Republican Eric Cantor highlighted that the president had acknowledged that he had not reached out to Republicans as much as he should have over the past two years.
“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,” Cantor said.
Added Boehner, “As I told the president, I think that spending more time will help us find some common ground.”
That “reaching out” effort will start today, they noted, since the President at the summit suggested that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Office of Management & Budget Director Jack Lew meet with four Congressional members – one from each caucus – to resolve the deadlock on extending the Bush tax cuts. Rep. Dave Camp, the top GOP lawmaker on the House Ways & Means Committee, will represent the House Republicans. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he would announce in the next few hours who would represent his caucus. Meanwhile a Congressional source tells ABC News that Finance Committee boss Max Baucus will represent the Senate Democrats.
“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,” Boehner said. “And so we're looking forward to the conversation with the White House over extending all of the current rates, and I remain optimistic.”
Amidst fears that the newly-divided government in Washington would result in gridlock for the next two years, McConnell stated that in the past some of these situations had been “quite productive.”
“I think we all agree there's no particular reason why we can't find areas of agreement and do some important things for the American people over the next two years,” he said.
But since the election the Senate has been less focused on taxes and more focused on other issues such as food safety, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, the DREAM Act immigration measure, and ratifying the START treaty with Russia, an issue that the White House has especially honed in on.
“The unanimous view of Senate Republicans is let's take care of the tax issue,” McConnell said. “Let's take care of how we're going to fund the government for the next 10 months and then if there's time left for other matters, it will be up to the Majority Leader Sen. Reid to decide whether we turn to other things before we adjourn for the year.”
Those comments echoed remarks earlier today – before the White House summit – when McConnell took to the Senate floor to blast the Democrats’ agenda.
“Their entire legislative plan for the rest of the lame duck session appears to be to focus on anything except jobs — which is astonishing when you consider the election we’ve just had,” he said. “Republicans aren’t looking for a fight. We’re appealing to common-sense and a shared sense of responsibility for the millions of Americans who are looking to us to work together not on the priorities of the left, but on their priorities.”