The devil, of course, is in the details — and the extent to which the government should cut back, especially since Republicans want to cut more than $74 billion from the current budget.
But the Republican budget proposal unveiled Wednesday morning, which takes aim at high-speed rail and clean energy programs which President Barack Obama championed at his State of the Union speech, didn’t stop Obama and his Republican counterparts from having a “very constructive” lunch Wednesday afternoon, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
House Speaker John Boehner, on the steps of the White House driveway, seemed to think so, too: “I think we can find common ground and work together,” he said.
As Gibbs noted, Obama’s interested in “getting our fiscal house in order,” and ending “regulations that are outdated and don’t work.” And Obama believes he and Republicans can find common ground on trade and education, Gibbs said.
But the administration acknowledged that the two sides had not come to any specific agreement at lunch. “This is going to be a long discussion,” Gibbs said.
Boehner, R-Ohio, had already told reporters on Wednesday morning he anticipated that he’d dislike the president’s proposed budget, which is due out next week. “I’m concerned that it will have too much spending, too much taxing, and too much borrowing,” Boehner said.
The White House, Gibbs emphasized, is making difficult decisions about what to cut. “I think you’ll see that very little has been spared,” he said.
And soon after Gibbs briefed reporters, the National Journal reported the Obama budget will “cut several billion dollars from the government’s energy assistance fund for poor people.”
So perhaps House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who joined Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Boehner for lunch, put it best: “It was a beginning and a start.”
Patriot Act problems?
Boehner acknowledged Tuesday’s failed vote to extend three Patriot Act provisions, but was quick to shift blame to Democrats.
“We’re not going to be perfect every day,” he said. “If the Democrats who voted for these same provisions last year would have voted for them this year, it would have passed.”
The extensions needed a two-thirds majority but fell seven votes short at 277-148. Twenty-six Republicans voted against the bill, including eight freshmen. But Boehner remained bullish on the extensions’ long-term prospects.
“We’re going to get these extensions of the Patriot Act enacted because it’s important for the safety and security of the American people.”
The Obama administration agrees. “My sense is that it will get done,” Gibbs said Wednesday.