House Republicans pleased with Obama meeting, but trust gap remains

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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WASHINGTON — House Republicans said Wednesday’s meeting with President Barack Obama was a step toward repairing the trust between the two parties, but many said that more work remains to be done.

“I think he did himself some good by coming here,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

“I think it’s important,” said Rep. Greg Walden, National Republican Congressional Committee chair. “Any time you’ve got a relationship or trying to build one to have time to sit down and talk to people.”

But Republicans emerging from the meeting said that the question of trust was a big factor between the two parties.

“You know, there’s a trust factor here,” Walden said, noting that the President has made clear that helping Democrats win back the majority in the House is one of his top priorities.

“I think almost every question had some grounding in the question of trust,” Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told reporters after.

House Speaker John Boehner called it “a very frank and candid exchange” and “productive.” But, he acknowledged, “there are some very real differences between our parties” and said that these had been highlighted in the meeting.

“Republicans want to balance the budget. The president doesn’t. Republicans want to solve our long-term debt problem. The president doesn’t. We want to unlock our energy resources to put more Americans back to work. The president doesn’t,” Boehner said. “But having said that, today was a good start.”

There was some sense among Republicans that Obama said nothing new, and that though he was open to a discussion, he seemed unwilling to budge on the issues.

“He told us basically what he’s told us campaigning for the past six years,” said Texas Rep. John Carter.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp said it was “nothing new.”

“It’s pretty hard to move forward when you’re a month-and-a-half late on your budget,” Huelskamp said.

Gardner said there appeared to be some areas of agreement on entitlements, and said he was frustrated by the president’s unwillingness to agree to those things up front and move forward on those.

“The president basically said we can’t do that because we need to, this is my interpretation, extract a pound of flesh from you,” Gardner said.

Still, there was some optimism. Obama said that in the “next few weeks” there would be news about the Keystone XL pipeline, which Republicans strongly favor and the president has been resistant to.

But Gardner said he felt Obama might be shifting on that. “I do think by the way he say there will be news on that in the next couple weeks was more positive than negative,” Gardner said.

Walden said there was a “a pretty positive discussion about the need to address these entitlement programs. He said he’s for doing that.” He said the two parties also seemed to have some common ground on Israel.

Boehner said he felt the meeting was productive even if, as Walden said, “this isn’t about getting specific commitments in our first meeting.”

“I heard what the president had to say. I’ve heard it before,” Boehner said. “I think it was good for all of our members to hear, so that they know where he’s coming from.”

When a new pope was chosen, Obama informed the caucus.

“He announced it to the conference,” said Rep. Michael Grimm. “So that was a very exciting moment.”

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