Obama meeting with House Republicans to be open to media

BALTIMORE — President Barack Obama’s meeting with House Republicans will be open to reporters at the White House’s request, according to a GOP aide.

Initially, the press was only to be granted access to the opening portion of the president’s remarks to House GOP lawmakers. But those plans were changed at the last minute, a GOP aide said.

Now the full meeting, including a question-and-answer session, will be in front of reporters and television cameras.

The president will be greeted with tough questions and policy alternatives during the session, said GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.).

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“This is not an opportunity for another lofty presidential speech,” Pence told reporters sequestered in a Baltimore hotel where the House Republicans are holding their retreat.

“There’s been a perception, greatly propagated by the majority party in Congress and administration, that we are the party of no ideas,” Pence said. “We will take this opportunity to respectfully but firmly remind the president of our alternatives on the stimulus, on budget discipline, energy independence and healthcare reform.”

Democrats have pushed the idea that the GOP is the party of no, and votes in the Senate on Thursday could add to that image.

In a series of party-line votes, Senate Republicans rejected measures to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and to set up a pay-as-you-go mechanism intended to prevent lawmakers from adding to deficits.

Republicans also opposed healthcare reform on party-line votes (with the exception of one House Republican), and only three Senate Republicans voted for the $787 billion stimulus package last year. One of those three Republicans later switched parties.

House GOP lawmakers argue the president has not reached out to them, and say the focus of their three-day retreat is on “winning back America.”

Pence explained that though winning majority control of the House in 2010 is a goal of the conference, it’s more important for the GOP to win back America.

“I think if we win back the confidence of the American people and demonstrate through our principled opposition and our positive alternatives that we are ready to govern again, then the America people will return Republicans to the majority in 2010,” Pence said.