U.S. President Barack Obama continued his outreach efforts to lawmakers Wednesday with a visit to Republicans in the House of Representatives. The president was received warmly, but sharp policy differences remain.
The Republican House speaker, John Boehner, who is often Obama’s chief political opponent, called the meeting a good start.
“I want to thank the president for coming to the Capitol today to visit with all of our members,” said Boehner. “I thought that we had a very frank and candid exchange of ideas, and frankly, I think it was productive.”
A White House statement called the meeting “a good substantive exchange.”
Still, Republicans and Democrats disagree on a number of issues, including immigration reform, gun control and relations with Israel.
Their main dispute is over how to reduce the deficit. The administration wants to cut the deficit through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, while Republicans are against higher taxes.
After the meeting, Boehner said that disagreement remains.
“The president understands, yeah, we have got some long-term spending that we need to deal with, but he is going to hold hostage the fact that he wants to raise taxes on the American people again. That is not going to get us very far,” he said.
Earlier, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the president believes bipartisan cooperation is possible, and hopes for a compromise.
“He has put forward proposals that demonstrate his commitment to making tough choices, to meeting Republicans halfway in the arena of common ground,” said Carney. “And he certainly hopes Republicans will similarly come forward with proposals that demonstrate that kind of spirit.”
Obama has had a number of one-on-one meetings with Speaker Boehner, but Wednesday’s get-together with House Republicans as a group was his first since late 2010.
It was the latest in a recent series of meetings the president has held with Republican lawmakers, in an apparent effort to bridge the partisan divide.
Obama treated 12 Republican senators to dinner last week. The next day, he invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and the committee’s top Democrat to lunch at the White House.
Carney said President Obama sees value in the meetings.
“The president is absolutely committed to engaging with members of Congress,” he said. “He has enjoyed his engagement so far. He believes it has been productive and constructive, and has led to positive conversations, both with Senate Republicans and House Republicans, and that includes his lunch with Chairman Ryan last week.”
Despite the bipartisan outreach on Capitol Hill, the president was set to speak later in the day to Organizing For Action, a nonprofit group which seeks to mobilize Obama supporters in favor of his legislative priorities.
Obama returns to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with Senate Republicans and House Democrats.