The president reached out Tuesday to the Republican members of the Senate’s immigration working group, including Graham.
Indeed, the White House has already begun crafting its own bill. Carney said a leak of details of the White House’s own immigration bill this weekend was not intentional. He said the administration prefers and hopes a bipartisan deal emerges from the Senate.
Carney had earlier struggled to explain why Obama hasn’t picked up the phone or met with GOP leaders this year to try to resolve the dispute over automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, amid broader questions about the administration’s congressional relations.
Congressional Republicans have been peeved by the White House’s campaigning across the country instead of sitting down to negotiate.
Carney, asked repeatedly Tuesday why the president has not called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did not give a direct answer, instead throwing up a vague response that the administration is interacting with Congress on a range of issues.
As for meeting with GOP leaders on the sequester, Carney said, “The President has made clear his door is open. What we’ve heard from the Republicans thus far is a categorical refusal, at least at the leadership level, to accept the basic principle that balance is necessary.”
Pressed further, Carney added, “The problem here isn’t a lack of meetings around the table in the Roosevelt Room or the Cabinet Room.” He noted that in the past Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has been the one who pulled out of talks on budget issues.
Shortly thereafter, via Twitter, spokesmen for McConnell and Boehner tweeted to Buzzfeed’s Zeke Miller that the president hadn’t spoken to their bosses this year or since the inauguration, respectively.
Carney later in the briefing would neither confirm nor deny meetings between leaders and the president this year.
“I’m not suggesting anything about what’s happening now. I’m just saying that we don’t always read out every conversation or meeting we have with members of Congress,” he said. “And in taking that approach, we’re mindful of the requests of others as well as our own interests.”
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.