May 25th, 2010
03:08 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama blasted in meeting with GOP senators

President Obama heads into a closed door meeting Tuesday with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.

President Obama heads into a closed door meeting Tuesday with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Washington (CNN) - A top Senate Republican accused President Barack Obama of engaging in hypocritical political posturing Tuesday after a closed door meeting between the president and Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The meeting was portrayed by the White House as the latest in a series of presidential attempts to reach across the aisle despite Washington's harshly polarized political climate.

The White House characterized the meeting as productive, issuing a statement saying the two sides had addressed a broad range of issues. Among other things, Obama asked for GOP cooperation on a series of economic growth measures and ratification of the START nuclear arms reduction treaty. He also asked for cooperation on hot-button issues such as comprehensive immigration reform and climate change legislation.

The president "had a good exchange with the Senate Republican Conference today about priorities for the balance of the year," the statement noted. "Obviously, there were continued differences on some ... issues. But the president believes that direct dialogue is better than posturing, and he was pleased to have the opportunity to share views."

But Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, painted a less rosy picture of the encounter, telling CNN's Dana Bash that he accused the president during the meeting of taking an excessively partisan approach to critical issues such as financial reform, and then having the "audacity" to come to the Senate GOP conference and use the Republicans as election year "props."

"I said I realize we are props in this meeting and asked how do you reconcile that duplicity? It obviously hit a nerve," he said. "For the president to come in and for us not to have a frank conversation is a wasted opportunity."

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican relied on many times by the White House for GOP support, stopped Obama on his way out of the meeting and told him that she agreed with Corker and was glad her colleague had confronted the president, according to a source familiar with the moment.

The source said Collins was upset because she, too, tried to work with Democrats on financial reform. Like Corker, she was furious about a Washington Post story published Sunday that detailed efforts by the Obama administration to make passage of the so-called Wall Street reform bill a partisan process.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, differed in his assessment, telling reporters the meeting included "a candid exchange on both sides ... [and] was certainly worthwhile." But he also slammed the president for adopting a strategy that he characterized as the pursuit of "far-left" legislation while cherry-picking a few Republicans on each issue.

"If he wants to meet us in the middle ... obviously we'd be happy to do that," McConnell said.

Several sources characterized the meeting as tense at times and indicated that several Republicans became frustrated.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, used the meeting to reiterate his recent message that comprehensive immigration reform will not be possible until the U.S.-Mexico border is more effectively secured. McCain, who has worked closely with Democrats on the issue in the past, is facing a tough conservative primary challenge this year partly due to those efforts.

McCain slammed the White House for "mischaracterizing" his state's new immigration law. The measure allows law enforcement officers to ask for proof of legal residency of anyone who is being investigated for a crime or possible legal infraction. Critics argue it will lead to anti-Hispanic racial profiling.

Obama "said he still believed [the law] was open to discrimination," McCain said. "I pointed out that members of his administration who have not read the law have mischaracterized the law. It was a very egregious act on their part."

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said most of the Republicans talked about "jobs, debt and terror" with the president. On the majority of issues, he said, "we simply have a large difference of opinion that's not likely to be settled until November."

Political analysts have questioned whether the House and Senate will have the political will to tackle many more major issues in light of the looming midterm elections. Congress is inching closer to passage of financial reform legislation, and the Senate is expected to take up Solicitor General Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination in a few weeks.

- CNN's Dana Bash, Ted Barrett and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report

Filed under: Congress • GOP • Popular Posts • President Obama • Senate
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Sgt. USMC

    "we simply have a large difference of opinion that's not likely to be settled until November."-Alexander
    I guess this means the repubs are going to keep playing politics trying to take back the Capitol.
    No surprise there.

    McConnell has proven that he is a liar who was paid off by W St to fight "We The People" on W st reform. CROOK

    "I pointed out that members of his administration who have not read the law have mischaracterized the law. It was a very egregious act on their part." – Kyl

    Party of:

    No guts

    No honor

    No patriotism

    No valor

    No values

    No morals

    No heart

    No brains

    No progress

    No discipline

    No integrity

    May 25, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. RJ

    The Republicans has no agenda. Their solution to everything is to say NO.

    May 25, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  3. Sgt. USMC

    Have some basketBALLS repubs and quit playing politics with my country!

    May 25, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  4. dax

    If would have put a million troops McShame and his dogs would be barking about something else.
    Among the other accolades I have for President Obama, I have to give him the highest markets for being thick skinned and resilient. He's the first present, I've seen, who cares enough for this country to swim with these chummed up mindless sharks knowing he will gain NO political goodwill.
    You can't tame a shark. It’s concerned with two things eating and self preservation.

    May 25, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  5. chill

    There is little to no middle in the GOP. And the middle of the Senate is the Blue Dogs and maybe those few stray Republicans. The other 30-35 are far right. Still, it's worth talking and seeing where some common ground can be developed.

    May 25, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. Liz the First

    Let's translate what Mitch McConnell means by 'meet us in the middle.' he means 'do it our way or it won't get done.' republican 'ideas' got us in the mess we're in now and struggling to get out of. their 'ideas' are good for the super-rich and huge corporations and lousy for the average American. they need to realize the American people voted in 2008 not to do things their way any more. they are the ones who need to meet us, not the other way around! they need to compromise more and not ostricize any of their ranks who dares vote with the majority on something good for the American people. they need to stop their lying and fearmongering against any proposal they don't like. they need to do their jobs in an honest and thoughtful way or they need to get out of government.

    May 25, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. John VA

    McConnell, your party no longer has a "middle" so how do you propose that the President meet you there?

    May 25, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  8. Jaywing

    Americans, especially a large percentage of Independent Americans, would prefer that the opposition party - whoeever that may be - be one of "Perhaps" or "We can work on this" over one that says unwaveringly "No", Until there is some open dialogue and cooperation coming from Republicans, the GOP is still the party of "No" and we will not vote for them in November. Let's see if the next month or so has the GOP working for all Americans and not just those they feel they must pander to for a hand-full of votes on the far right.

    May 25, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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