President Barack Obama's relationships with Congressional Republicans have withered in recent months, casting doubt on his ability to influence Congress during the election season next year as well as his ability to push an aggressive agenda if he wins a second term.
Though Republicans are in a good position to hold the levers of power in both chambers come 2013, several rank-and-file GOP Senators told Roll Call last week that Obama hasn't called them at all this year — and several said his standoffish relations have hurt his agenda in a chamber that is pivotal to any White House legislative successes.
Obama did have all Senate Republicans up to the White House for a cattle call earlier this year, and he engaged in extensive discussions with Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on this summer's debt deal. But direct contacts between the president and lawmakers have slowed to a trickle as he gears up for re-election, Republicans said.
A senior Republican aide said Obama has had just three brief phone calls with Boehner since unveiling his jobs package — and there's been no real effort to work with the Speaker.
McConnell said there was plenty of back-and-forth earlier this year to try to get a debt deal, but lately Democrats are just playing politics.
"I haven't counted up the weeks, but we've had a show vote a week here for a seemingly endless period of time, none of which are designed to get an outcome," he said.
As for negotiations with the White House? "Nothing serious yet," he said.
Meanwhile, Republicans who have occasionally worked with Democrats, including some Obama has personally wooed in the past, say they haven't heard from the president this year.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) had emerged last year as a potentially fertile lobbying target for the administration when she touted her independence after losing the GOP primary to tea party Republican Joe Miller, whom she subsequently defeated as a write-in candidate in the general election. But Murkowski said that after a call congratulating her victory, little of substance has come from her spare dealings.
Murkowski said she did get a call from White House Chief of Staff William Daley asking about her vote on the Commerce secretary nomination. She also visited the Oval Office in February, according to news reports.
"I, too, kind of assumed there would be greater outreach there. But this administration is not known for reaching out on the legislative side," she said. "It's not just my observation. I talk with colleagues on the other side of the aisle who had expected perhaps a little more reach out because of the fact that the president used to serve with us in the Senate and the vice president used to serve with us here in the Senate."
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