Saturday, December 16, 2017
Politics

Obama's courtship of Capitol Hill might not succeed

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's three days of visits to Capitol Hill produced no serious thaw in the partisan standoff that has impeded progress on budget and other fiscal matters for years.

Obama on Thursday wrapped up an extraordinary series of four visits in three days with lawmakers at the Capitol, hoping to gain enough trust to forge ahead with the kind of grand fiscal bargain that so far has been unattainable.

While he may have laid some groundwork, Republicans and some liberal Democrats remained skeptical that they could find consensus for a broader plan to curb projected deficits.

"It's nice that the president reached out," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "We were glad to have him. But there are big differences. And the president's idea of compromise is 'Just do it my way'. And that's just not going to work."

In their meeting, House Republicans pointedly asked the president if he was more eager to win congressional seats for Democrats than to get a bipartisan budget deal. In their meetings, liberal Democrats worried that the president might compromise too much on Medicare and other entitlement programs, though he assured them he wouldn't.

"He recognized that we have some pretty big differences and we ought to keep expectations under control," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. "But he said he believes, and I think all of us believe, that this is the way we should be doing business together."

In the days and weeks ahead, the effect of the meetings could be hard to detect.

The first order of business is keeping the government funded and open past March 27 through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Final votes on a stopgap plan are expected late next week.

Next is a tougher task. The House and Senate next week plan to consider budget proposals for the next 10 years beyond Sept. 30. Republicans control the House and are offering a plan to raise no taxes, balance the budget, and slow the growth in domestic spending beyond what Democrats will accept.

Democrats will counter in the Senate with a budget that would raise $975 billion in taxes and cut an equal amount from projected spending over 10 years. Republicans say that plan will go nowhere.

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