Zero, none, zilch. That's the level of outreach Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, says he's fielded from the White House in advance of Tuesday's State of the Union address, in which the president is expected to call for bipartisan cooperation.
Boehner, speaking at a breakfast for reporters on the morning of the address, held up his hand and signaled the number zero when asked how much the White House has reached out to his office. Asked if the gesture was an O.K. sign, the Ohio Republican replied, "No...it's zero...none...zilch," reports Fox News' Bret Baier.
"Of course there will be outreach, we have all kinds of plans coming up," White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett said on ABC's Good Morning America when asked if the president has reached across the aisle. "Tonight's speech is all about winning for the future. That's a bipartisan message; it's something everyone can get around."
But Boehner hasn't been around at two big events for the president in the last few weeks. The Speaker did not accept an invitation to join the president on Air Force One en route to the memorial service for Tucson shooting victims, and was absent at last week's state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao.
And while Jarrett stressed that the president State of the Union focus on investing in infrastructure and innovation and reducing the deficit will garner "strong bipartisan support," Boehner on Tuesday questioned whether the word "investment" is really just another term for "spending."
The Speaker, however, brushed off reports that he has snubbed the president as "comical," reiterating, "He hasn't reached out to me at all." And though Boehner observed he and President Obama are "not particularly close," he says he "gets along fine" with the president and expects the relationship to improve in the next several months.
Boehner is scheduled to introduce President Obama before a joint session of Congress for the State of the Union Tuesday night.