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President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders Wednesday took tentative steps toward reviving some semblance of bipartisanship before election-year considerations fully take hold in Washington, D.C.
The meeting, which included Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was the first face-to-face meeting of the nation’s political leaders since July.
The meeting was billed by the White House as part of Obama’s “ongoing efforts to find common ground on legislative priorities that will create jobs and strengthen America’s economy.” Though Democrats were mum on the details, Republicans left the discussion feeling cautiously optimistic that Obama was sincere in his desire to bridge at least some of the gaps between the two parties and could, at least temporarily, break the gridlock on Capitol Hill.
“We had a positive lunch at the White House today ... particularly on jobs and on energy. And I like to think some of the bipartisan bills on jobs we’ve passed through the House will be taken up soon by the Democrats in the Senate,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Boehner said Obama was also receptive to a package of jobs bills cobbled together by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), adding, “The president was very optimistic about moving that bill through the House ... [and] I think the president’s support of the JOBS Act was very welcome.”
McConnell agreed, calling the meeting a “very productive lunch” and saying that Obama’s call for bipartisan cooperation will hopefully mean the Senate turns “to bills that can actually pass and be signed into law.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney was equally upbeat, telling reporters, “It was a constructive and cordial meeting over lunch” that covered “a range of topics, both domestic and foreign. And they discussed ways that could build on the bipartisan cooperation that led to the payroll tax cut as well as unemployment insurance.
“We’ve been saying for a long time, and the president has been saying, that there is reason to hope that the conventional wisdom that holds that Congress held by the opposition party, or largely controlled by the opposition party, cannot get any business done with the president in an election year is wrong, and that if folks focus on the areas of agreement and work in a cooperative, bipartisan fashion, we can advance the American people’s agenda,” Carney added.