(CNN) – President Barack Obama's newfound desire to meet rank-and-file Republican lawmakers may be more about politics than pact-making, House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy suggested Sunday.
Last week, Obama took a dozen Republican lawmakers to dinner in Washington, and later invited House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan for lunch at the White House. Next week he'll head to Capitol Hill for meetings with the full GOP coalitions in both the House and the Senate, as well as the entire Democratic caucus in each chamber.
That's a shift from Obama's past strategy of dealing almost exclusively with the congressional GOP leadership, which includes McCarthy as the No. 3 House Republican, behind House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," the California Republican said that while the latest "charm offensive" was welcome, it was coming too late in Obama's presidency.
"I believe anytime both parties are talking it's a good thing. Now, this should have happened four years ago," McCarthy told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. "I'm glad it's happening now. But is this about politics, or is this genuine? Only time will tell."
Citing Obama's frequent trips outside Washington to promote his policy agenda, McCarthy said, "The president always likes to play politics, so I think he'll continue to play that political game."
Whether engaging in a game or not, Obama and Republicans continue to face serious differences in their plans to reduce the federal debt through spending cuts and revenue increases. Each party has sought to pin the blame on the other side for the automatic spending cuts that kicked in on March 1 when no deficit reduction deal was in place.
Obama's bid to publicly engage the GOP comes after members of both parties complained he hadn't made enough of an effort to personally meet lawmakers. McCarthy said Sunday it was still too early to determine whether the latest effort would suffice.
"I haven't seen him talk to enough people yet," McCarthy said, adding the president "doesn't know that many people in the House. He knows more people in the Senate because he served there for a few years."
Whether the outreach is a good faith attempt at reaching across the aisle, or simply a bid to appear more conciliatory, remains to be seen, McCarthy said.
"Is this about winning the House or is this about governing for all of America?" he asked, looking ahead to the 2014 midterm elections, which will be the next opportunity for Democrats to regain control of the lower chamber of Congress.
Republicans have accused Obama of being overly focused on those contests, which aren't for another year and a half. With the current balance of power in the House, Democrats would need 17 seats to win back the majority in 2014.
Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed charges Obama was singularly focused on electing Democrats to office.
"It goes without saying the president wants those in his party to do well, but it's not a focus of his, particularly, at this point," Carney said Monday. "He is focused on trying to get a bipartisan consensus around some very important policy objectives."
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