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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs