Yesterday on CNN’s State of the Union, Senate
Majority Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told host John King that he’s “disappointed” in what he considers President Obama’s failure to live up to his promises to govern in a bipartisan manner. King noted that in January, McConnell had struck an extremely optimistic tone about Obama’s promise to offer a new era of “post-partisanship”:
KING: Has that promise been kept? And as you answer, when was the last time your phone rang and at the other end of the line was President Obama saying, you know, Mitch, I think we might disagree about this, but…
MCCONNELL: Oh, we have plenty of conversations. But I must say I’m disappointed, after two months; the president has not governed in the middle as I had hoped he would. But it’s not too late. He’s only been in office a couple of months. Still, before him are the opportunities to deal with us on a truly bipartisan basis.
McConnell’s disappointment appears to be misplaced. Indeed, Obama has worked hard to accommodate the input of Republican lawmakers, meeting with them on several occasions and making substantive changes to legislation to attract their support:
– On Economic Stimulus: While crafting the economic recovery package, Obama met with both House and Senate GOP members on Capitol Hill and at the White House, and guaranteed a significant portion of the recovery package would be dedicated to tax cuts. Despite his efforts, all but three Republicans in Congress voted against the package.
– On Health Care Reform: When Obama hosted a health care reform summit at the White House, it was well attended by congressional Republicans, some of whom Obama called on personally to offer their opinion during a press conference at the end of the day. Indeed, McConnell himself issued a statement after the summit saying that he was “encouraged by the bipartisan talks which took place today.”
– On Fiscal Responsibility: Obama was similarly open to input from congressional Republicans when he hosted his fiscal responsibility summit at the White House. During the wrap up session, he took questions from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).
When GOP input has been left out, it hasn’t been because the White House isn’t open to it. Just last week, for example, the White House hosted a meeting where Obama outlined his new policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Though invited, McConnell and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) chose not to show, citing “scheduling conflicts.”
And despite his “disappointment,” McConnell seems to recognize that Obama is working hard to reach out. Indeed, his admission that he and Obama “have plenty of conversations” suggests that the only reason Obama hasn’t been able to fulfill his promise of post-partisan governance is McConnell’s continued refusal to negotiate in good faith.