Sometime this afternoon President Obama made a phone call to House Speaker John Boehner to congratulate him on passing the three free trade agreements sent over to congress earlier this month. But according to a readout released by the speaker’s office, the call quickly became a bit more confrontational when Boehner challenged the president on some comments made earlier today at his press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
When asked by CNN’s Jessica Yellin about his decision not to negotiate with Republicans on Capitol Hill over the details of his jobs plan, President Obama returned to some of the rhetoric he’s been using on the road in recent weeks, challenging Republicans to come up with their own proposals if they refuse to support his. Here’s what the president said:
Frankly, we have not seen a lot of ideas coming forward from Republicans that would indicate that same kind of commitment to job creation. If they do - if Senator McConnell or Speaker Boehner say to me, you know what, we want to get some infrastructure built-in this country, we think that putting construction workers back to work is important - I’ll be right there. We’ll be ready to go.
I don’t think the problem here, Jessica, is that I have not been unwilling to negotiate with Republicans. I've shown repeatedly my willingness to work overtime to try to get them to do something to deal with this high unemployment rate. What we haven’t seen is a similar willingness on their part to try to get something done. And we’re not going to wait around and play the usual political games here in Washington, because the American people are desperate for some relief right now.
Well, during the phone call this afternoon Boehner challenged the president’s characterization of Republican inaction. Here’s the speaker’s office readout of the call:
"I want to make sure you have all the facts,” the Speaker told the President. The Speaker reminded the President that House Republicans put forth a ‘Plan for America’s Job Creators’ in May, and noted that he and other members of the GOP leadership team have spoken with the President and his staff about the plan and referenced it on numerous occasions, in letters and elsewhere.
The Speaker told the President that when he sent his jobs plan to the Hill, Republicans pledged to give it consideration, and have done so. The President was reminded of a memo written by GOP leaders outlining the specific areas where they believe common ground can be found. The Speaker also noted that a number of the President’s ideas have already been acted on in the House, including a veterans hiring bill, trade agreements, and a three percent withholding bill approved by the Ways & Means Committee today that will be considered on the House floor this month. They also discussed transportation and infrastructure, and the Speaker expressed his desire to do something on the issue, but to do it in a fiscally-responsible way.
Asked to comment on the specifics of the phone call, a White House spokesman took a pass, saying only that the president called the speaker today to "thank him for his efforts to help pass the three trade agreements." It's interesting that Boehner would leave the door open for more infrastructure spending, and it seems that the speaker's office wants to send a message to fellow Republicans that their leader in the House won't let the president get away with what it views as a distortion of their record.