Republican leaders seek elusive common ground in White House meeting
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[February 03, 2016]
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President
Barack Obama met with a frequent critic, House Speaker Paul Ryan, on
Tuesday as the political leaders searched for areas where they may be
able to overcome partisan divisions.
The Oval Office discussion was the Democratic president's first
formal face-to-face meeting with Ryan since the Wisconsin
congressman took over the top post in the Republican-dominated House
of Representatives in October. Following the meeting, which was
closed to the press, the two ate lunch together in the White House.
The session marked a rare public detente between Obama and Ryan, who
have repeatedly clashed over issues such as gun control and
immigration reform. The get-together in the Obama's office also
included the Republican-controlled Senate's majority leader, Mitch
McConnell of Kentucky.
While the leaders said they hoped to find common ground, there were
already signs on Tuesday that compromise might be elusive.
Sniping between the administration and the Republicans resumed just
hours after the meeting, as White House Chief of Staff Denis
McDonough slammed Republicans' latest attempt to overturn the
Affordable Care Act.
"Groundhog's Day is great for a movie plot, not a legislative
strategy," McDonough said on Twitter in response to a post from
Ryan's account. "Groundhog Day" is a 1993 movie about a man who
relives the same day over and over again.
During the meeting Obama urged actions in areas where Republicans
had signaled some support, including ratifying the Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade deal, providing tools to help address Puerto
Rico's fiscal crisis and advancing cancer treatment.
McConnell told reporters after the meeting that he had "some
problems" with the trade pact and said he thought it should not be
pursued before the November U.S. presidential election.
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Ryan also raised concerns about the trade deal, his office said in a
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said after the meeting that the
administration does not have a specific timeline for Congress to act
on the trade agreement, but lawmakers should act "quickly" once the
pact is ready for consideration.
The leaders also discussed taking action to combat opioid addiction,
criminal justice reform and the fight against the Zika virus.
Obama was pleased to meet with the Republican leaders, Earnest told
Despite the divisiveness seen on the campaign trail, "it actually is
possible for leading Republicans to sit down in the same office with
a leading Democrat and have a conversation about the priorities of
the country," he said.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Meredith
Mazzilli and Dan Grebler)
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