POLITICS -- February 9, 2011 at 8:31 AM ET
Economy, Spending on the Menu for Obama's Lunch With House Republicans
The White House. Photo by dasjabbadas via Flickr.
President Obama will welcome the top three Republicans in the House of Representatives for lunch Wednesday at the White House, part of his renewed outreach to GOP lawmakers since the "shellacking" suffered by Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.
The meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET. Vice President Joe Biden also plans to attend the lunch, which is closed to the press.
Rep. McCarthy, R-Calif., laid out his expectations for the meeting in an appearance Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," saying, "I'm hopeful, with no press, no teleprompters, that we have a really frank conversation -- how to we create jobs, how do we end regulation, where can we find common ground and move forward."
Asked what Republicans were prepared to concede heading into the lunch meeting, Rep. McCarthy said, "I don't know what you give when you're sitting down at a meeting. The first thing you do with these five people sitting there, you build a relationship. For two years there was no relationship. There wasn't a need for them to have a relationship with us. They had all the majorities."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs previewed the meeting during his briefing with reporters Tuesday. "Obviously, without a doubt, there will be, I think, a heavy discussion on the economy and on spending," Gibbs said.
It will also likely provide an opportunity for President Obama to give the Republican leaders a preview of the budget proposal he's expected to roll out Monday, perhaps giving each side an opportunity to assess where the battle lines will be drawn.
Gibbs said the president likely discussed similar issues with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., when the two lunched at the White House last Friday. That meeting had not been included on the president's public schedule and only became public during Tuesday's press briefing.
Wednesday's visit from the House Republican leadership comes the day after the party was dealt an embarrassing setback on a vote to extend three provisions of the Patriot Act through the end of the year.
The measure fell seven votes shy of the two-thirds vote required for approval. Twenty-six Republican lawmakers, including eight freshmen, opposed the bill. But GOP leaders blamed their Democratic colleagues for the effort's 277-to-148 downfall, noting the majority of the votes opposed came from members of the president's own party.
The Obama administration released a statement earlier Tuesday supporting the extension of the measures, but said it would "strongly prefer enactment of reauthorizing legislation that would extend these authorities until December 2013."
FLOTUS MEETS THE PRESS
First lady Michelle Obama certainly knows how to make news. In a roundtable with reporters Tuesday marking the one year anniversary of her "Let's Move" initiative, Mrs. Obama answered a reporter's question about her husband's smoking habit by announcing that he had quit and hasn't smoked for the better part of a year.
So much for all those desired stories about "Let's Move."
The first lady continues her media tour Wednesday with a live interview on NBC's "Today" show and an appearance on "Live with Regis and Kelly."
In her interview with Matt Lauer, Mrs. Obama was asked to weigh in on the crisis in Egypt.
She declined to comment on her husband's policy decisions, but she did speak to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
"When I look at what's going on Egypt it just reminds me how grateful we are to live in a democracy and I wish the people of Egypt the best. And I know that America will be working to do the right thing," she said.
The more revealing moments of the interview had less to do with the news and more to do with family life in the White House. She said she's ready to do whatever is asked of her for her husband's re-election campaign and she hoped her children would emerge from their White House experience unscathed.
"There are a lot of great kids who have come out of the White House. So, the tradition is great. The Bush girls are magnificent. Chelsea Clinton, she's a solid young woman. We're all proud of them. Caroline Kennedy, I mean we've got a pretty good track record. So, the Obama girls hopefully will be among...in that group," she said.
As for her push for a healthier youth in America, Mrs. Obama said the school lunch reforms that will soon be implemented will have a significant impact on the childhood obesity epidemic in America.
"With the passing of the child nutrition legislation this year, we're seeing some of the most sweeping changes in school lunches we've seen in generations," she said.
"You'll see the quality improve. You'll see more focus on nutrition education. That's as important as the food that they eat -- kids understanding how they eat," she added.
WANTING A WINNER
More than anything, Republican voters want a winner in 2012.
According to a poll released Tuesday by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, 68 percent of those surveyed said they would rather have a GOP presidential nominee who can defeat President Obama, while 29 percent responded they would prefer a candidate who agrees with them on every issue.
The poll also shows the prospective Republican field has no clear front-runner. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee leads with 21 percent, followed closely by former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin with19 percent, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney with 18 percent.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich is the only other potential candidate in double figures with 10 percent.
This quote from CNN polling director Keating Holland pretty much sums up how Republican voters feel about their '12 options at this point: "Republicans are divided on their choice for the GOP nominee in 2012, but they are united in their desire to see Obama ousted from the White House."
THE NEVER-ENDING ABORTION DEBATE
It's one of those issues that seems guaranteed to be part of American political discourse for eternity. The abortion debate moved front and center on Capitol Hill this week, and the passionate pleas from each side ensued.
NewsHour reporter-producer Quinn Bowman has been tracking the latest developments:
"In one of his first news conferences as speaker of the House, John Boehner announced that one of his top legislative priorities was a bill to make a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion permanent, in addition to rescinding tax benefits for health-care plans that cover abortion."
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