CAPITOL HILL— President Barack Obama met with House and Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a strategy session ahead of the one-month Congressional recess, when lawmakers return to their home districts to meet with constituents. Both Democrats and Republicans are staking out their positions ahead of possible showdowns over funding the federal government and raising the debt ceiling. The looming battle is once again raising concerns about "broken government."
President Obama used three words to sum up the focus of his meetings:
"Jobs, growth and the middle class," he said.
After the meeting, House Democrats praised the president for persevering in the fight for the middle class in repeated battles with Republicans. The issue is part of the looming fight over funding the federal government and raising the U.S. debt ceiling that is likely to re-surface after the August recess.
"The president made it very clear that while he was prepared to work with our Republican colleagues, he was not prepared to put at risk the credit worthiness of the United States of America," said Democrat Steny Hoyer, House Minority Whip.
Raising the debt ceiling would allow the U.S. government to pay its debts.
But in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, scolded the president for giving speeches on the economy.
"....It really would be nice to see the president work with Congress for a change to get some important things done for the American people. But it’s almost like he’s got a ‘Gone Campaignin’ sign hanging outside the Oval Office," he said.
On Tuesday, President Obama spoke at an Amazon.com warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee, making a new offer to Republicans.
"I don't want to go through the same old arguments where I propose an idea and the Republicans just say, no, because it’s my idea," he said. "So I’m going to try offering something that serious people in both parties should be able to support: a deal that simplifies the tax code for our businesses and creates good jobs with good wages for middle-class folks who work at those businesses."
Republican House Speaker John Boehner was not enthused.
“His scheme yesterday would actually require small businesses to pay higher tax rates than big companies," he said. "Now the only thing that’s new here is that he wants to take some of that revenue and use it for more of his stimulus spending."
To cut that spending, some conservative House members have in the past pushed Congress to the brink of defaulting on the nation's debt or shutting down the government.
David Hawkings of Roll Call says that may happen again.
"There is still a solid number of Republicans in the House especially who are itching for that kind of a confrontation, and think they will win it," he said.
Asked if the U.S. government is broken, Hawkings said not yet.
"I would say a shutdown, or even worse than that, a default on our obligations would be an empirical sign that the federal government had broken," he said.
The U.S. Capitol building will likely be calm for a month ahead of the brewing storm in September.