With just more than a week before automatic spending cuts hit, President Barack Obama called Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday morning in what Republicans say were his first substantive conversations with the GOP leaders this year.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Republican aides declined to comment on the substance of the conversations — usually a good sign in Washington — even as they continued to trade talking points over who is to blame for the sequester and who is holding the military and other government programs hostage for political advantage.
Separately, Obama told Al Sharpton in a radio interview that he’s continuing to reach out to Republicans to “do the right thing” and avoid the various effects of the sequester but he doesn’t know if they are going to move and accept more revenue as part of a deal. The Obama administration has recently advised that the sequester will force it to furlough civilian defense employees, among other key government workers.
Republican aides, meanwhile, continued to point fingers at the White House and Senate Democrats, who plan to move a sequester replacement bill next week that the GOP has already declared dead on arrival.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel in an email questioned why Obama didn’t call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
“After all, the House has passed a sequester replacement bill (twice!), while the Democrat-controlled Senate has not. If he wants to avert the sequester, shouldn’t the President be focused on the House of Congress that HASN’T acted, and where his own political party holds the majority?”
But, Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, said the president called Reid on Thursday, too.
Of course, those House-passed bills died when the previous Congress ended. The House would have to bring them up and pass them again if leaders wanted the Senate to act on them.
Obama tried calling House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday as well, but she was traveling. Her spokesman said the call is being scheduled.