Obama to meet GOP leaders: Should Democrats be worried?
President Obama will meet with GOP leaders from the House and Senate Tuesday for the first time since Election 2010. Some Democrats worry that he could be too willing to compromise.
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But ties with the GOP minority were not a priority. Democrats controlled the House and had 59 or 60 seats in the Senate. So the president focused his attention on a handful of GOP Senate moderates, whose occasional backing was enough to break Republican filibusters.Skip to next paragraph
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Until Aug. 4, the president had never met one-on-one with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. By contrast, Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, a key GOP moderate, says she has met with the president on policy issues many times in the first years of his presidency. “But I really think it’s time for him to meet with the [GOP] leaders,” she says. “I hope it’s the start of a new relationship.”
Weekly bipartisan leadership meetings between the White House and congressional leaders were the norm in the 1960s and '70s. “President Nixon held weekly, bipartisan leadership meetings with members of Congress. Clinton held monthly meetings,” says Donald Wolfensberger, director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “Obama is not doing it at all.”
Too willing to compromise?
Some Democrats worry that the new GOP head count in the House and Senate, come January, could tempt the White House into compromises that undermine policies Democrats have defended while in power, most notably not extending Bush-era tax breaks to people in the top tax brackets.
“When we have such a huge deficit, we simply cannot give tax breaks to the wealthiest in this country,” says Sen. Bernard Sanders (I) of Vermont. “I hope the president draws a clear line that we are not going to cut Social Security or raise the retirement age.”
Yet to date, seven Senate Democrats have gone on record supporting tax breaks for all Americans, at least in the short run.
Some moderate Democrats, whose ranks were severely depleted in the 2010 midterm election, are also renewing calls for bipartisan outreach.
“I think the president has a good sense of where our caucus is coming from and the difficulties he has ahead of him,” says Rep. Adam Schiff (D) of California. “The problems we face are so big that something has to be done in a bipartisan way. We have to find a way out of this thicket together.”