WASHINGTON – Signaling an attempt to break an impasse, President Obama on Thursday placed calls to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell about spending cuts due to kick in on March 1. Neither side reported progress, however, and aides taunted each other with Twitter messages.
The outreach was Obama’s first in weeks to top Republicans in Congress. They came as both parties remained in a stalemate over how to avoid automatic, across-the-board cuts that would trim $85 billion from most government accounts.
White House spokesman Jay Carney revealed the calls Thursday, describing them as “good conversations.” But neither he nor top Republican aides offered details about the discussions, the kind of restraint that has in the past indicated a move toward genuine negotiations. Obama also spoke to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday, though aides said both men speak frequently.
Obama sounded cautious about chances for a breakthrough during a Thursday interview with television and radio talk show host Al Sharpton.
“At this point, we continue to reach out to the Republicans and say this is not going to be good for the economy, and it’s not going to be good for ordinary people,” Obama said. “But I don’t know if they’re going to move, and that’s what we’re going to have to try to keep pushing over the next seven, eight days.”