Top Republicans are already previewing their message to President Barack Obama in Tuesday’s bipartisan huddle with Hill leaders: Work with us or watch out.
All signs point to the 10:30 a.m. meeting, the first since Democrats took a drubbing in the Nov. 2 elections and lost control of the House to Republicans, being less about substance and more about posturing. Neither party has signaled a willingness to find middle ground on the list of issues on tap for the lame-duck session, including extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, passing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and votes on controversial immigration and gay rights issues important to the Democratic base.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote in a Tuesday opinion piece in the Washington Post that Democrats should view the meeting as a chance to come around to the GOP position on extending tax cuts for all taxpayers, including the wealthy, versus only for the middle class. The president and Democratic leaders have so far opposed extending tax cuts for people who make more than $250,000. All the tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year.
“Republicans heard the voters loud and clear. They want us to focus on preventing a tax hike on every taxpayer, reining in Washington spending and making it easier for employers to start hiring again. Today, Republican leaders renew our offer to work with anyone, from either party, who is ready to focus on the priorities of the American people,” McConnell and Boehner wrote.
The GOP leaders said Democrats have “clung for too long to the liberal wish list” and warned that if they don’t extend all tax cuts in the next few weeks, Republicans will force the issue when the new Congress kicks off in January.
“If the president and Democratic leaders don’t act before the end of the year ... Republicans will work to get the job done in the new Congress. But we hope it doesn’t come to that,” they said.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) delivered an equally resolved message on extending all tax cuts during a Tuesday interview on NBC’s “The Today Show.”
“There’s no compromise on that particular issue,” he said. “We’re just saying that we don’t think tax rates should go up when we’re suffering in such an economy.”
Republicans say the White House meeting is also a chance for Obama to begin building GOP relationships on Capitol Hill, something they say he failed to do over the past two years.
“Why is this meeting ... such a big deal? Because the president doesn’t come meet with us often. They haven’t had that ability to have a bipartisanship talk,” House Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday on Fox News.
Attendees at the White House meeting will include McConnell, Boehner, Cantor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). Vice President Joseph Biden, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew will also attend.