GOP Leaders Upbeat after Meeting with Obama

by Andrew Stiles

Washington – Republican leaders expressed satisfaction following their White House meeting with President Obama this morning and said they remain optimistic that a timely agreement can be reached on the Bush tax rates.

At a press conference following the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said GOP leaders had a “useful and frank discussion” with the president and reiterated Republicans’ commitment to extending current tax rates across all income levels, noting that “100 percent of Senate Republicans and a number of Senate Democrats” favor doing so.

House Minority Leader John Boehner said he is “optimistic” an agreement can be reached during negotiations led by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and OMB Director Jack Lew. Obama announced earlier today that Geithner and Lew will hold discussions with four congressional representatives — one from each caucus — in an attempt to broker an agreement.

Boehner, who said he hoped the meetings would begin as soon as today, said Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.), presumptive chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, will represent the GOP on the House side. McConnell said he would announce later this afternoon who would represent Senate Republicans.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said he was pleased with the meeting and praised President Obama for striking a somewhat conciliatory tone. He said Obama admitted that he had not sufficiently reached out to Republicans in the previous two years and pledged to do more so in the future. “I was encouraged by the president’s remarks regarding his perhaps not having reached out enough to us in the last session, and that this meeting was the beginning of a series in which he hoped that we could work together in a different fashion for the benefit of the American people, given the problems that we face,” Cantor said.

Boehner concurred. “There’s a reason why we have Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “We disagree about the appropriate role of the federal government.” But that doesn’t mean both sides can’t reach agreement every now and then. “As I told the president, the more time we spend together [the more] we can find common ground,” he said.

McConnell said there was some discussion of the START Treaty on the Senate side but that Republicans are focused primarily on finding a solution to the tax situation, reaching an agreement on government funding for the coming months. Anything else, McConnell said, would be addressed at Majority Leader Harry Reid’s discretion.