News / USA

Obama Capitol Visits Yield Smiles, No Deal

President Barack Obama waves to members of the media as he heads to a meeting with House Democratic Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 14, 2013.
President Barack Obama waves to members of the media as he heads to a meeting with House Democratic Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 14, 2013.
Michael Bowman
President Barack Obama’s third trip to Capitol Hill this week may have boosted his working relationship with lawmakers, but yielded no immediate breakthroughs on a bipartisan path to deficit reduction and improved U.S. fiscal health.  

A smiling but tight-lipped President Obama emerged from a 90-minute closed-door meeting with Republican senators.

“It was a great conversation.  It is great to be back in the Senate," said President Obama.

Republicans, like Senator Lamar Alexander, praised  Obama’s willingness to meet with them face-to-face.

“Relationships are important," said Alexander. "When President [Lyndon] Johnson and [former] Republican leader Everett Dirksen had a good, close relationship, out of it came a civil rights bill in 1968.  So relationships are important - that is step one.  Step two is leadership.  And in our system of government, if anything big is going to happen in a crisis, the president is going to have to lead.  And that was the main message we suggested to him.”

For Republicans, “presidential leadership” means they want Obama to convince Democratic lawmakers to embrace cuts and reforms to government programs as a primary deficit reduction tool. 

But Democrats, including Obama, want a mix of spending reductions and new tax revenue to improve America’s finances while also setting aside funds for domestic priorities like education and infrastructure.  That approach is contained in a budget proposal unveiled by Democratic Senator Patty Murray earlier this week.

“This is a jobs and economic growth budget," said Murray. "We believe that, with an unemployment rate that remains stubbornly high and a middle class that has seen their wages stagnate for too long, we cannot afford any threats to our fragile recovery.”

The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, labeled the Murray budget a “left-wing manifesto.”

“At a time when Americans believe about half of every dollar they send to Washington [in taxes] is wasted, the Democratic budget would increase spending by nearly 62 percent," said McConnell.

Democrats are similarly dismissive of a House Republican budget proposal with a cuts-only approach to deficit reduction.

Senator Charles Schumer:

“The truth is, Congressman Ryan’s fiscal plan relies on a lot of budgetary sleight-of-hand [tricks] in order to create the illusion of a balanced budget," said Schumer. "The document is filled with deceptive gimmicks, far-fetched assumptions, and phony arithmetic.”

With hardened partisanship and harsh rhetoric the norm on Capitol Hill, some might question whether any amount of presidential engagement with lawmakers will yield a compromise budget deal.  But Republican Senator John Hoeven says Obama’s efforts, if sustained, will not go to waste.

“I specifically asked him [Obama] if he would stay involved directly, working with us, working with members of Congress until we get a grand bargain," said Hoeven. "I said, ‘You have to grind it out.  That is the only way we are going to get there.’  He said he would.”

After meeting with Republicans, the president strolled to the other side of the Capitol for a meeting with House Democrats, whose leader, Nancy Pelosi, described Obama as “inspiring, optimistic, and realistic.”

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs