Despite proclaiming that he’s eager to work with Congress on new legislation this year and determined not to let the country to drift over the looming “fiscal cliff,” President Obama has mostly stopped meeting with the main person who can help him get that done, House Speaker John Boehner.
The country faces a massive tax increase and draconian automatic spending cuts at the end of the year if budget deals aren’t reached. Yet Obama’s last meeting with Boehner was more than two months ago, on May 16 at the White House. It was one of only two meetings Obama has had with Boehner all year.
What’s more, both sessions were what’s known as bipartisan, bicameral leadership meetings, meaning the leaders from both Parties of both the House and Senate were on hand. Such gatherings generally include little substantive work, with both sides offering up politically attuned position statements, well aware that any bold idea or offer of a concession will subsequently be leaked to the press by the other side.
The White House teed up 2012 with a spokesman’s remarkable statement that, “In terms of the president’s relationship with Congress in 2012 . . . the president is no longer tied to Washington,” adding that securing a year-long extension of the payroll tax cut was the last “must-do” piece of legislation for Obama.
The White House subsequently tried to reel that one back in, suddenly proclaiming it wanted a robust working relationship with Congress and hoped to get all kinds of great things done.
But the year has mostly panned out as first forecast, with Obama having little formal contact with even members of his own party while unceasingly wandering the country panhandling for campaign cash.
Instead of doing the grueling business of working with Congressional allies and antagonists to craft legislation, Obama has instead issued a series of executive orders that have left some wondering whether he is trying to import the legislative branch up Pennsylvania Avenue and into the White House.
Bill Clinton proved in 1996 that enormous things can happen on Capitol Hill during a presidential reelection year, as he worked with Congress to pass Welfare Reform and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Ironically, Obama has issued unilateral executive policies that seek to undermine both laws.
By the way, the other meeting between Obama and Boehner was February 29. Seems it took an extra day tagged onto the year for the president to fit the Speaker in.