Obama Calling GOP Senators to Talk Sequester Fix
After weeks of stalemate with Republican leadership over a deal to replace the wide-ranging, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, President Obama has been consulting with a new set of Republican lawmakers, who are high-profile but not necessarily leadership, about fiscal issues and the possibility for a deal to resolve them.
Among those Republicans with whom he recently spoke include Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., CBS News has confirmed through multiple sources. A White House official also reached out to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., according to a Republican Senate aide.
Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney alluded to some of those talks, referring to "conversations with Republicans and Democrats over the weekend about the sequester specifically, and the broader issue of balanced deficit reduction."
"He spoke here the other day about believing that there is a caucus of common sense out there, lawmakers in both parties who understand that we need to do tough things to achieve entitlement reforms because that's the right thing for our economy, and we need to do tough things on tax reform -- tough things for Republicans -- go along with tax reform in a way that generate revenues to pay down our deficit," Carney said. "That's the kind of discussion he's having with lawmakers and he'll continue to have, because he believes that there are Republicans who -- both those who have spoken publicly about it and others who have not -- who support the general premise of balance."
While Carney would not read out the list of lawmakers the president had contacted, an aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the top Senate Republican was not on it, nor had he spoken with Vice President Joe Biden about sequestration in the last few days.
McConnell and other congressional leaders met with the president at the White House last Friday to discuss sequestration, though that conversation does not appear to have yielded the framework of a deal. McConnell has also suggested recently that the impacts of sequestration would not be the end of the world.
The Republicans who have spoken with the president have been circumspect about the details of their conversations: Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Collins referred to a "good discussion" between the senator and the president, but did not respond to questions about the prospect of a possible deal in the works.
"Senator Collins said they had a good discussion about the need for a bipartisan agreement on several critical issues including the unsustainable, $16.6 trillion debt and sequestration," said Kelley. "She encouraged further discussions of a substantive nature."
It's unclear if Mr. Obama would be able to garner substantial support from the GOP for a plan that did not have the backing of its leadership, but Collins, Portman, and Corker all have a history of working with Democrats. Corker is also an original member of the Gang of 10, a bipartisan coalition that seeks comprehensive energy reform.