Washington (CNN) – A leading Senate Republican essentially said Sunday that his GOP colleagues are not terribly interested in President Obama’s recent efforts at bipartisanship.
On two key Democratic legislative agenda items, a jobs bill and a comprehensive health care reform bill, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, suggested Sunday that Senate Republicans may not support measures backed by leading Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Late last week, in a rare show of bipartisanship, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, unveiled a $85 billion jobs bill which observers believed at least some Senate Republicans would have supported. Within hours of the unveiling of the Baucus-Grassley jobs bill, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, announced his intention to present a much smaller $15 billion jobs bill to the Senate when it returns from an upcoming weeklong recess. The slimmed down Reid version of the jobs bill also contains provisions which Senate Republicans might be expected to support like tax incentives to spur small businesses to hire and buy equipment.
Related: Jobs bill advances . . . or does it?
But, Kyl said Sunday on State of the Union that his fellow Senate Republicans may not back the Reid bill and the Senate Republican Whip made a special point of emphasizing the abrupt way in which the jobs bill has been handled in recent days.
“For one thing, I'm very confused about - in fact, I was a little embarrassed,” Kyl told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “I was answering a question at a press conference on 1:30 on Thursday about examples of bipartisanship, and I pointed to the [Grassley-Baucus] bill that you alluded to as a good example of bipartisanship, and then found out about a half an hour later that, during [the Senate Democrats’] luncheon, Harry Reid had scrapped [the Grassley-Baucus bill] - some said pulled the rug out from under Chairman Baucus - and come with this - with this [smaller] bill.”
After Kyl detailed his personal differences with the smaller jobs bill proposed by Reid, Crowley asked whether Republicans run the risk of being seen as ‘”the party of ‘no,’” a frequent Democratic dig in the last year at congressional Republicans, for not supporting measures which they had supported in the past in various permutations.
“My response earlier was that this is not a proposal that Republicans had made,” Kyl said emphatically. “We have a different small business approach. The goal is the same. We believe that our approach would be more effective than spending the money that the president proposes to do it this way. I don’t know if Republicans will support [the Reid jobs bill] or not. All I was saying was that this was not what we had proposed in the past.”
On the issue of health care reform, Kyl also suggested Sunday that Democrats may not be acting in good faith in their invitation to sit down with Republicans at a televised health care summit hosted by the White House and set for February 25.
Related: Obama, Republicans spar over starting point for health care summit
Kyl pointed to recent reports that congressional Democrats could use a Senate budgetary procedural device called “reconciliation” to pass some aspects of their health care reform agenda without the 60 votes typically necessary to block a filibuster.
Even though the Senate and House have both passed their own versions of health care reform legislation, the bills have differences which Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have been struggling with and trying to negotiate within Democratic circles. One proposal that has been floated is to take those provisions backed by Democrats in both chambers that fall within the scope of the “reconciliation” process for budgetary measures and make them a separate bill which would only require 51 votes in the Senate, a number Senate Democrats should be able to deliver because the Senate Democratic Caucus has 59 members.
“I don’t know why we’d be having a bipartisan summit down at the White House if they’ve already decided on this other process by which they’re going to jam the bill through,” Kyl told Crowley.
If Democrats have already settled on using reconciliation, Kyl added, “then obviously it’s pointless to talk [at the planned summit] because they’ve made up their minds and they’re going to ram it through whether [Republicans] like it or whether the American people like it.”
In an effort to bring congressional Democrats and Republicans closer together, last week President Obama held the first of a promised series of regular bipartisan gatherings at the White House where congressional leaders from both parties sat down personally with Obama.
Afterwards, the president shared his thoughts on what bipartisan give-and-take should mean.
Bipartisanship on health care reform cannot mean only that "Democrats give up everything they believe in," the president told reporters after the meeting.
"Bipartisanship depends on a willingness among both Democrats and Republicans to put aside matters of party for the good of the country," Obama also said.
In addition to last week’s White House gathering with congressional leaders, in an unprecedented event late last month, Obama took questions from House Republicans on live television. The live, unscripted event was an effort by Obama to demonstrate greater transparency as well as his knowledge of Republican policy proposals and his willingness to work with the GOP in an atmosphere where the public has become increasingly weary of partisan bickering in Washington.