March 10th, 2013
11:01 AM ET
2 years ago

House whip questions motives behind Obama outreach

(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."

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. PL

    I trust Obama about as much as I trust that Candy Crowley will do honest reporting.

    March 10, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  2. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Of course a Republican would try to find something negative over The President wanting to mend fences by breaking bread.

    March 10, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. PJ

    Good grief, they whine when the President doesn't "reach out", now they whine when he does.
    Maybe this fool should ask his own party "Is this about winning the (White) House or is this about
    governing for all of America?"
    Answer: Republican/Teas are not about governing for all of America and they prove it every day.

    March 10, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. Thomas

    GOP leadership, which includes Kevin McCarthy as the No. 3 House Republican, behind House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

    These three men have done nothing in the last four years. GW Bush era thinkers , with no new ideas .

    March 10, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. Yanni

    This is called McCarthism

    March 10, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  6. plain&simple

    You see what this country and it's people must deal with. Should have,would have. Give them what they ask for....don't trust his motive!!! OBSTRUCT is all these dimwits know. The party of cuts ...education is one of those cuts...needs to get some intelligent leaders.

    March 10, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  7. king

    The tepubs complaoned about the budget yet they refuse to compromise to get the budget under comtrolled, they are complaining about the very thing they are causing.

    March 10, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  8. bkgrandma

    Of course the Republican Whip would put a negative spin on anything Obama tries to accomplish. They are the party of negative and no, so the American public knows not to expect anything positive from any Republican as long as Obama is in the white House. They vowed to make him a one term President and that didn't work so now they will just continue to criticize anything he does. WILL THEY NEVER LEARN???

    March 10, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  9. Vote Jeb 2016 - we owe the Bushs another shot @ tanking the country

    Another Repubs smearing the president. nothing new here.

    March 10, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  10. Randy, San Francisco

    Pact making is an important element of politics. McCarthy should not be House Whip if he doesn't understand politics is the art of compromise and deal making.

    March 10, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. Name Catmandew

    To be honest they are just stating the truth. Obama if he had wanted progress should have done this about 3 or 4 years ago. Obama has been more motivated by elections than anything else for his entire term in office. During budget control he refused to do what was right because of upcoming elections! He has not listened to the people look at Obamacare no one wanted it and now it's law! Obama will do anything to push his agenda, and so be it on the consequences. He thinks because he won the election by 1% he has been empowered by the people!! We can still impeach him!

    March 10, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |