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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid