President’s relationship with GOP congressional leaders at new low

President Obama’s relationship with Republican leaders in Congress has hit a new low.

The president’s personal jab at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over the weekend came as his relationship with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has soured over the last year.

Boehner and Obama enjoyed a round of golf together in 2011, but after several high-profile partisan showdowns, the Speaker has vowed to no longer negotiate with the president one-on-one.  After the election, Boehner said Obama wants to “annihilate” the Republican Party.

{mosads}Even though Obama has met with the Senate and House GOP conferences and various smaller meetings with certain Senate Republicans, the president has not signaled a desire to reach out to Boehner nor McConnell. Many on Capitol Hill view Obama’s recent gatherings with Senate Republicans as a clear end-run around McConnell.

Democrats note that McConnell said his No. 1 political goal of the last Congress was to ensure that Obama would not win a second term. They also maintain Republicans have consistently refused to compromise with Obama.

In his first address to the Fourth Estate since the election, Obama went after McConnell in personal terms at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday night.

“Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress. ‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask.  Really?  Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell? I’m sorry. I get frustrated sometimes,” Obama said.

McConnell’s campaign team responded in kind via Twitter on Monday afternoon, posting a photo of the Kentucky senator sitting on a bar stool with a glass of beer, next to an empty seat.

The caption read: “@BarackObama @Eastwood_ Greetings from coal country! Hazard, KY –MM.”

Joking aside, the president has done little outreach to McConnell except for the perfunctory call following the Boston terror attacks two weeks ago.

“I’m not so sure the president was joking; to some extent, I think it was a fair assessment when [Obama said], ‘You have a drink with Mitch McConnell, no you.’ It’s gotten to that point, Capitol Hill is a pretty entrenched place and neither the president nor congressional Republicans have the power to prevail on any issue,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told The Hill that unless the speaker and president said “hi” at the George W. Bush presidential library opening last week in Dallas, “the last time they spoke – other than the call about Boston – was the bipartisan, bicameral meeting about the sequester.”

The meeting took place on March 1, the day that $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts took place.

Since then, the president has attempted to reach out to rank-and-file Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Obama joked about his outreach effort at the high-profile Washington dinner.

“I am not giving up. In fact, I’m taking my charm offensive on the road — a Texas barbeque with Ted Cruz, a Kentucky bluegrass concert with Rand Paul, and a book-burning with Michele Bachmann,” Obama quipped.

Aside from a luncheon meeting with Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) the week before he met with the House GOP Conference, Obama has limited his outreach to GOP senators. But those meetings have yielded little results to date.

John Feehery, GOP strategist and columnist for The Hill, said that Obama has to rely on Vice President Biden to cut deals with the GOP.

“What Obama’s trying to do is go around the leaders, especially in the Senate. There’s clearly not much of a relationship between Obama and Mitch McConnell. Ultimately he’s going to have to rely on Joe Biden to get anything done,” the former communications director for then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said.

Feehery added that if Obama wants to talk with GOP leaders, he will have to make the first move, not the other way around.

“Obama’s job is to call Boehner up. He’s the president, that’s the protocol. It’s not like Boehner’s going to call up Obama and bother him. You just don’t do that when you are speaker of the House. You’ve got to wait for the president to make the contact,” Feehery explained.

Supporters of the president point out that Obama showed a good-faith effort by including a Social Security reform in his budget that is favored by Republicans. Republicans, Democrats say, have not been willing to meet Obama halfway. 

At the annual dinner on Saturday night, Obama emphasized this when he said Republicans have been attempting to reach out to more minorities since the election.

“Call me self-centered, but I can think of one minority they can start with,” Obama said. “Think of me as a trial run, see how it goes.” 

Tags Boehner Joe Biden John Boehner Michele Bachmann Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Rand Paul Ted Cruz

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