The “hoagie summit” failed to yield a peace treaty Wednesday, with no clear path forward for President Barack Obama’s Congressional to-do list or for solving the year-end fiscal policy pileup.
Ostensibly, Obama called Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to the White House to talk about common ground on a few discrete policy objectives related to job creation and the faltering economy. But the conversation was destined to be hijacked by Boehner’s insistence Tuesday on deeper spending cuts in exchange for any new debt limit increases — and it was.
Each party’s “readout” of the meeting revealed the underlying election-focused priorities of each participant: The White House would like to maintain some level of comity and get a few more victories before November. McConnell would like to be Senate Majority Leader next year, and Boehner has to keep his restive Conference in line. And the positions they all staked out were familiar to anyone who has been following the president and Congress for the past year and a half.
Still, all parties reported a cordial lunch at the White House, and everyone agreed the sandwiches from D.C. deli Taylor Gourmet were good.
The president’s top priority at this point is to win re-election, but everyone, regardless of party, is hyper-aware of the herculean task Congress will face at the end of this year, no matter who wins in November. The expiring Bush tax cuts, the need for another debt limit hike and $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts known as the sequester are a triple combo of political — and potentially economic — pain.
Boehner, who revived his “Boehner rule” on Tuesday, clashed with Obama.
Obama told the Speaker he wants a clean debt ceiling increase without offsets, and Boehner vowed that wouldn’t happen while he’s Speaker.
“As long as I’m around here, I’m not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt,” Boehner told the president, according to a Boehner aide.
Boehner also pressed Obama on preventing a year-end tax hike and approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. And he urged the president to encourage Attorney General Eric Holder to cooperate with the Congressional investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “Fast and Furious” program.
“The Speaker was very pleased with the sandwiches served,” the Boehner aide quipped.
Obama picked up the sandwiches during a trip to Taylor Gourmet to highlight his proposal for a tax cut for small businesses that hire more people.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.