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Obama, Boehner Seek to Ease Tensions Over Round of Golf

  • Kent Klein

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, left, are on the first hole of their game of golf at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, June 18, 2011

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, left, are on the first hole of their game of golf at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, June 18, 2011

President Barack Obama and John Boehner, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, spent four hours playing golf together on Saturday. The two political rivals were not expected to reach any deals on contentious issues such as government spending or U.S. military involvement in Libya, but were rather getting to know each other on a personal level.

President Obama and the top House Republican are at odds on numerous issues, but on Saturday they teamed up on the golf course at a military facility near Washington.

White House officials and the speaker’s office say the president and Boehner defeated Vice President Joe Biden and John Kasich, the Republican governor of Boehner’s home state of Ohio.

Afterward, officials say, the foursome retreated to the clubhouse, enjoyed cold drinks, watched the U.S. Open golf tournament on television, and visited with service members.

Mr. Obama invited the speaker to the golf outing several weeks ago, in hopes of establishing a personal relationship, and eventually reaching consensus in the areas that divide them.

White House spokesman Jay Carney recently told reporters no agreements on the major issues were expected to arise from the round of golf. But he said efforts to resolve those disagreements would be helped by the president and the speaker getting to know one another on a social level, rather than bickering through the media.

“That is a good thing. It is good for the process. It is good for the country. It may move you a little bit closer towards the kind of compromise that we need to get the things done that the American people expect us to get done. So if it takes a few hours out on the golf course to help that process, I think it is a worthwhile thing to do," he said.

The session on the golf course came as Mr. Obama and speaker Boehner are battling each other on budget negotiations and the U.S. military involvement in Libya.

The debt ceiling - the legal limit on the amount the U.S. government is allowed to borrow - is a main area of contention between the two.

The Obama administration says the government will surpass the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling on August 2, and failing to raise it will have grave consequences.

Republicans have insisted on budget cuts of about $2 trillion over 10 or 12 years before agreeing to expand the government’s borrowing authority.

The two leaders have also clashed over U.S. military involvement in Libya. Boehner has said the president needs to act in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, which requires congressional approval for a sustained U.S. military operation.

Administration officials contend that the resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya, which they say does not rise to the level of a war. They have also reminded reporters that Boehner had questioned the constitutionality of the act in the 1990’s.

And since becoming speaker, Boehner has made it a priority to try to overturn the health care reform legislation that Mr. Obama considers a cornerstone of his presidency.

Neither the White House nor Boehner’s office has released the scores from Saturday’s golf outing. But they did say the match was won on the 18th and final hole. As a result of a bet, the president and the speaker won $2 each.

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