By Russell Berman - 03/07/13 05:17 PM EST
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he is “optimistic” about President Obama’s new outreach to rank-and-file Republicans, but he warned it will not make the GOP bend on taxes.
“I think it’s a sign, a hopeful sign, and I’m hopeful that something will come out of it,” Boehner said at his weekly Capitol news conference. “But, if the president continues to insist on tax hikes, I don’t think we’re going to get very far. If the president doesn’t believe that we have a spending problem, I don’t know if we’re going to get very far. But I’m optimistic.”
A day after taking a group of Republican senators out to a swanky dinner, Obama is having lunch on Thursday with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House GOP budget chief and the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee.
Next week, the president will visit the Capitol to meet with both the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the House and Senate, which he has not done in at least three years.
The GOP has complained for years that, aside from secret negotiations with Boehner, Obama has made little effort to court Republicans and solicit their views.
“You know, we went through months of campaign-style events all over the country, and I did have a conversation with the president about it last Friday,” the Speaker said, smiling. “It was really kind of interesting that this week we’ve gone 180 [degrees]. After being in office now for four years, he’s going to actually sit down and talk to members.”
With Boehner and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) adamantly opposing Obama’s push for more tax revenue in a deficit-reduction deal, the president has sought to go around the leadership to find what he has termed “a caucus of common sense.”
While not relenting on taxes, Boehner said he approved of that effort because after the repeated failure of high-level negotiations, any major agreement will have to occur “organically.”
“As I told the president last week, the more members that we engage in this process, I think the better off we are,” he said. “If you’re ever going to pass a major bill that’s will begin to address our spending problem, we’re going to have to grow this support and its going to have to be an organic process. So I think it’s a hopeful sign, and maybe something will come up with it.”
Boehner earlier this year told his conference that he was through negotiating one-on-one with Obama, but said he did not “feel like the president is going around me.”
“I frankly think it’s a somewhat hopeful sign that the president, now in his second term, is beginning to understand that even the leaders have to have support of the members,” he said.