Obama hosts Boehner for rare, private Oval Office chat

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 25, 2014 3:38pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Speaker of the House John Boehner in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington February 25, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Speaker of the House John Boehner in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington February 25, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner met for about an hour on Tuesday in a rare, one-on-one Oval Office discussion between two leaders who have fought bitterly during fiscal crises over the past several years.

The meeting seemed unlikely to lead to a breakthrough in Washington's political gridlock, particularly leading up to the November midterm elections.

The Democratic president and Republican speaker remain at loggerheads on policies ranging from job creation to the implementation of Obamacare, the president's healthcare insurance reform.

Aides to both men said they covered a lot of ground during the meeting, talking about at least 10 topics. But aides shared little insight into what, if anything, the meeting accomplished.

"They agreed that there is a lot of work to do the rest of the year, and it is important to work together wherever we can find common ground," a Boehner aide said.

The two leaders talked about immigration reform, which Obama wants the House to pass, but which Boehner has hinted is unlikely to get through Congress this year.

Aides said they also touched on Obama's request to Congress for authority to fast-track trade deals, which has met with resistance from Democrats.

Obama had spoken with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai ahead of his meeting with Boehner, warning him that he would pull all U.S. troops from the country this year unless a security agreement is signed soon. Obama talked with the Republican leader about the issue, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The conversation also covered a range of domestic issues including manufacturing, flood insurance, California's historic drought, budgets for fighting wildfires, funds for fixing highways, and the appropriations process.

Both parties have scaled back their legislative ambitions this year ahead of midterm elections in November, when Democratic control of the Senate is at stake and Boehner's Republicans will seek to make bigger inroads in the House of Representatives.

Tea Party conservatives in the House Republican caucus would prefer Boehner stake out a harder line against Obama's policies, and Boehner has little to gain by seeking compromise with the White House.

It was the first time the two leaders had met alone in the Oval Office since December 17, 2012, when the two leaders sought but ultimately failed to find a "grand bargain" on tax reform and spending cuts during deficit reduction talks.

But Carney downplayed the long gap, and suggested that the two leaders may talk more frequently than is publicized.

"We don't read out every meeting and conversation that the president has," Carney told reporters.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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Comments (16)
actnow wrote:
Boehner and Obama still seek a massive immigration anything goes amnesty. Comprehensive immigration reform must be about protecting American workers and tax payers first….not a shoot from the hip anything goes mass amnesty now and maybe enforcement later designed by ruthless politicians and business interests. Thank you NumbersUSA for giving concerned CITIZENS a voice again. If the Senate anything goes amnesty plan outrages you, get involved. The tide is turning but we need every American voice. Please….get involved today before the open boarders lobby buries us all.

Feb 24, 2014 10:45pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Bakhtin wrote:
“open boarders”? Try again when you have learned to spell properly…. you might get taken more seriously. In the meantime, ranting about an issue that you can’t even spell properly isn’t convincing.

Feb 24, 2014 11:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
theovulator wrote:
How about instead of “open boarders”, we insert “foreign invaders”? Is that spelling more to your liking Bakhtin?

Feb 25, 2014 4:43am EST  --  Report as abuse
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