Shortly after the meeting this morning between Republican House members and President Obama, several lawmakers spoke to HUMAN EVENTS—on and off the record—about what was accomplished at the summit on government spending.
By nearly all accounts, House Republicans (who were unanimous in defeating the “clean” vote to raise the debt ceiling Tuesday night) forcefully pressed their case for major spending cuts in return for the pivotal vote on the debt ceiling later this summer.
As Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R.-Wash.), vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, told HUMAN EVENTS: “We had a good discussion, but we have a long way to go.”
Sources told us that Speaker John Boehner started off the meeting for his colleagues by recalling that he has served 20 years in Congress and “we keep kicking the can on making spending cuts.” Turning to the President (who was seated throughout most of the meeting), Boehner reportedly said: “Mr. President, we have a plan. We need to see yours.”
By most accounts, Obama did not offer House members anything new, but sounded conciliatory and open to new ideas. The President reportedly insisted, “You may not like it, but I have a plan”—referring, of course, to the budget he presented earlier this year. Obama, we were told, maintained that the cuts he proposed would save $4 trillion in spending and interest, which led many among the House members to say they would wait for the scoring of it from the Congressional Budget Office.
And, he reportedly added, the administration would “continue to scour the budget” for more possible cuts.
“But he also said that we must continue our investments in health care, education, and transportation,” recalled McMorris Rodgers. “And those are code words for spending.”
All the lawmakers who spoke to us agreed that the most spirited exchange was that between the President and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). When the President referred to “demagoguery” in the public debate on the budget and cited references to “death panels,” “socialism,” and the question of whether he was a natural born citizen, Ryan countered that since the President’s recent speech at George Washington Universit, his focus seemed to shift to 2012 “and this was infecting 2011.”
Obama and Ryan then had a frank exchange over the Republican budget plan’s controversial reform of Medicare. The President underscored his worry that health care costs were driving deficits and the national debt, and that the Republican measure would shift the cost to the states. Ryan reportedly countered that competition and choice would drive down the cost of health care.
The House members said other issues came up during the session at the White House. Rep, Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) made a case for medical liability reform and, turning to the President, said, “Try it. I think you’ll like it.” Amid loud applause from the Republican guests in the East Room, our sources said, Obama said, “I’m ready to do it. I have said it before.”
There are always dissenting views. One House freshman who refused to attend the session called HUMAN EVENTS to explain his boycott.
“I purposely didn’t go to the White House because I didn’t want to be part of [Obama’s] show,” Rep. Joe Walsh (R.-Ill.) told us. “This was purely a media event and I didn’t want to be used as a prop. If he were serious, he would have called in 10 Republican congressmen at a time and said, ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves and go to work on this together.’ He’s not serious about the budget or spending cuts.”
For those who did attend, the somewhat milder postmortem of freshman Rep. Bill Huizenga (R.-Mich) is sufficient to summarize their attitude: “It wasn’t like we solved the world’s problems. But I would say the meeting was useful and mildly productive.”