House lawmakers left for a two-week recess on a high note Thursday, with members of both parties banding together in nearly equal measure to pass a substantive piece of legislation.
But unlike the longevity of the bill that permanently ends the "sustainable growth rate" used to calculate doctors' payments for Medicare, and extends for two years the Children's Health Insurance Program, it's highly doubtful the bipartisan comity will endure. Earlier in the day, the House's top Republican and Democrat used their weekly press conferences to offer perfunctory praise to the other party for cooperating in crafting the SGR deal — and also to shoot darts.
"I could talk all day, and you probably think I will, about what's wrong with the Republican budget," Pelosi said, "but that one is so demoralizing."
Speaker John A. Boehner took aim not at the House Democrats' budget alternative, but at President Barack Obama's.
"The president's plan never balances, indeed, runs red ink for as far as the eye can see," Boehner said. "The president's plan would raise taxes by more than $2 trillion ... [and] would be a disaster for working families struggling in this economy."
The Ohio Republican went on to criticize the Obama administration's handling of foreign policy, particularly in the Middle east, calling him an "anti-war president."
The sniping was as sure a sign as any that Pelosi and Boehner aren't going to come back to Capitol Hill prepared to wholly change the way they do business after coming to rare agreement on one, albeit major, piece of legislation.
In fact, reporters at Boehner's press conference didn't ask if this was the start of a new, more productive working relationship between the leaders. Rather, they wanted to know when the next time might be that Boehner will "need" Pelosi to help pass crucial legislative priorities, the assumption being that the speaker will rarely be able to corral his ideologically disparate caucus around bills that need to advance.
"When I see one, I'll let you know," Boehner replied.
"We've got a lot of tough issues to deal with here in the Congress. We didn't get elected just to come here and sit on our rear ends," Boehner said. "We've got work to do, work to do on behalf of the American people.
"So as we get into these other challenges that are facing us in the coming months, we're going to try to work together with my colleagues — Democrats, if they're willing — to do the right thing for the American people. It's the way the legislative process is supposed to work."
Pelosi, during her separate briefing was asked a similar question with regard to whether Democrats and Republican could work together to pass appropriations bill this year.
She said it was possible — but things could be made harder, she added, with "this very, very damaging budget that Republicans have passed."
Still, one Democrat was particularly upbeat after Thursday's rare display of bipartisanship. President Barack Obama said he called Boehner and Pelosi to congratulate them on the doc fix deal, saying: "Let's do more of this!"
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