Politics & Government

GOP: Obama must change if he wants bipartisanship

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH)
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) Chuck Kennedy / MCT

BALTIMORE — President Barack Obama will speak Friday to Republicans from the House of Representatives, who voiced skepticism Thursday about his call for bipartisanship in his State of the Union address and vowed to continue opposing his agenda unless he _ not they _ changes course.

On the opening day Thursday of a two-day House GOP retreat in Baltimore, Republican leaders said that Obama must do more than invite them to the White House, offer to cut capital gains taxes for small businesses and sing the praises of offshore drilling and nuclear energy to get their cooperation on contentious issues such as health care.

“We’re going to continue to go down the same path this year,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said before the retreat opened. “We’re going to look for common ground, but we’re not going to roll over on our principles.”

Obama is expected to repeat his bipartisanship plea Friday.

Bipartisanship wasn’t evident on Capitol Hill the morning after the president’s speech, as the Senate backed by a party-line 60-40 vote tough new “pay-as-you-go” curbs on future federal spending as part of legislation to increase the nation’s debt limit.

“While I’m pleased that the Senate passed pay-go, I am disappointed that no Republicans joined us in supporting this step to combat the deficits they helped create,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement. “This is legislation with a strong bipartisan history, and I hope that when it returns to the House, Republicans will vote for it.”

Boehner said that Obama’s speech Wednesday night showed that the president didn’t learn any lessons from Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s upset victory in the Massachusetts special election last week or from the earlier Republican gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia, and that Obama instead had decided “to just double-down on his job-killing agenda.”

Still, Republican leaders said they liked some elements of Obama's bipartisanship overture, particularly the president’s positive remarks about offshore drilling and nuclear power.

“I don't think I've heard the president be more forceful when it comes to the expansion of nuclear energy in the United States,” Boehner said. “So we'll see …how that will manifest itself in legislation.”

Nevertheless, the tone of Obama’s State of the Union address left some Republicans cold. Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said he didn’t appreciate the president criticizing Republican resistance to the Democratic health care legislation and calling out the Supreme Court for its recent ruling on campaign-finance law.

“And I have got to say that I don't remember one that was more partisan than this one,” Drier said. “The idea of taking on the United States Supreme Court, the idea of looking over to us and saying to us that, rather than listening to the polls, we should do what's right.”

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