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January 27, 2010

Republicans Urge Obama to Have Honest Conversation on Major Issues

by Dan Robinson

Minority Republicans in Congress say they're prepared to negotiate with President Obama on major issues, such as health care reform and energy legislation.  The president will meet with House of Representatives Republicans at their issues conference in Baltimore, Maryland on Friday, while the Democratic Speaker of the House reiterated her determination to approve some form of health care reform legislation.

During the president's State of the Union Address, Republicans remained silent and seated for the most part, applauding only when the president proposed such things as tax breaks for small businesses and incentives for investments, and construction of new nuclear power plants.

Referring to the president's push for health care reform, which has been slowed by Democrat's loss of their 60 vote majority in the Senate after an election in Massachusetts, House minority leader John Boehner said the president failed to prove that he heard American's concerns.

"If the Democrat leaders here in Congress and the president are serious about getting our economy going again and putting people back to work we can in fact work together to promote policies that will do that," said John Boehner. "But there was nothing last night in the president's speech to indicate there was any willingness to sit down and work together."

Boehner said Republicans are eager to sit down with the president for an "honest conversation" when he joins them in Baltimore and attempt to find some common ground, but will not "roll over" on principles, such as opposition to any health care plan they assert will raise taxes and increase government's role while discouraging job creation.

Saying the president delivered rhetoric while renewing his commitment to failed policies, Mike Pence of Indiana said Republicans welcome the president's call for greater engagement and dialogue, but added.

"This is not an opportunity for one more presidential speech," said Mike Pence. "Tomorrow in Baltimore, the president has agreed to have a conversation with House Republicans about the future of this country, and House Republicans will seize the opportunity in respectful terms but candid and frank terms to make it clear to the president that we have better solutions."

Though they continue to oppose Democrat's climate change legislation, House and Senate Republicans are a bit more receptive to the president's proposals on energy and trade.

Representative David Dreier of California:

"The president did point to some issues that I found appealing, the idea of pursuing nuclear energy and offshore drilling were very appealing," said David Dreier.

Dreier welcomed  President Obama's pledge to strengthen trade relations with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, but was skeptical about the administration's commitment to finalizing bilateral agreements.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell echoed areas of agreement with the president on energy and trade.

"The president called for increased exports and for the Congress to pass trade agreements that have languished under the current majority in the Senate," said Mitch McConnell. "Republicans agree with the need to increase trade and with the need to ratify agreements with Colombia and other important trading partners that so far have met resistance on the other side of the aisle."

Meanwhile, calling the president's speech a "masterful" presentation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeated her intention to ensure that Congress acts on some form of health care reform, saying the current system is unsustainable.

"We go through the gate, the gate is closed we will go over the fence, the fence is too high we will pole vault in, if that doesn't work we will parachute in, but we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people, for their own personal health and economic security and for the important role it will play in reducing the deficit," said Nancy Pelosi.

After spending all of 2009 attempting to move a single health care bill through Congress, Pelosi and top aides indicate Democrats will now try to achieve their overall goals using "many fronts", a reference to separate pieces of legislation that could move in coming weeks.

Pelosi also repeated her view that the entire Defense Department budget should not be exempted from the 3 year government spending freeze President Obama proposed in his State of the Union Address.

Asked if she sees any way to improve relations with Republicans, Pelosi said  Democrats have a responsibility to find a way and look for common ground but also stand their ground on principles important to Americans suffering in the recession-hit economy.