Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was pleasantly surprised by the candid private meeting Senate Republicans had with President Barack Obama on Thursday to discuss the upcoming vote to raise the debt ceiling.
Obama met with the full Senate Republican Conference at the White House, one day after a similar get-together between Obama and Senate Democrats. The president is also expected to meet with the House Democratic and GOP Conferences on the budget.
McConnell described the meeting as productive and complimented the president on fostering a candid exchange of views — a significant takeaway considering that previous such meetings between Obama and Senate Republicans have not gone well.
“I was skeptical as to whether this meeting was worth having,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters during a Capitol Hill news conference. “I thought the meeting was really constructive and worth everybody’s time.”
McConnell reiterated that he believes the most likely vehicle for reaching a budget and debt limit agreement will be the bipartisan group of Senate and House Members that has been meeting with Vice President Joseph Biden.
“The most important Democrat in America is the president of the United States. The only American in the country who can sign a bill into law is also the president of the United States. Unless he is directly involved in the discussion, it will not lead to an outcome,” McConnell said. “We’ve got plenty of discussions going on around the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis on a whole variety of issues, and that’s not insignificant. But what I’m interested in is, how do you make something happen?”
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.