Inside a 'Testy' Meeting Between President Obama and Republicans

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 25, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, now you're going to get the inside story on a meeting between President Obama and Senate Republicans. Now, it sounds like it was rather raw. Senator Brownback described it as testy. Republican senator Pat Roberts says President Obama's thin-skinned. Ouch! Really? Thin-skinned?

Anyway, Republican Senator John Thune was also at the meeting. He joins us live. Good evening, sir.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D.: Good evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, your meeting today -- what did you learn?

THUNE: Well, the president talked about his agenda, the things that he wants to work on for the balance of the year. He talked about the stimulus bill that's passed. He wants another stimulus bill in the form of the tax extenders (ph) bill that's currently under consideration in the Congress. He talked about the Supreme Court, the new START agreement. And of course, then he got into energy and immigration.

The thing that I think was noticeably absent from his agenda was spending and debt, which is an issue that I think is deeply concerning the American people. But it was more, I think, opportunity. He had requested the chance to come before the Senate policy committee, and obviously, we welcome him any time he wants to come and visit with us.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, did you ask him about spending and debt, if that's caught your attention?

THUNE: Well, that issue was raised. It was raised with him. And it's something that we believe has to be addressed. We think that the spending is out of control. We think that the trillion-dollar stimulus bill, the $2.5 trillion expansion of health care, even the financial services regulation bill that passed last week (INAUDIBLE) another $21 billion that we're adding to the debt -- and this bill that I mentioned earlier that's before Congress right now would add another $150 billion to the debt.

So there just seems to be no limit to the capacity or the appetite of his administration and the Democrats in Congress to continue to spend and borrow our country to where we're going to be remade into the image of Greece if we don't do something about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was there an acknowledgement, though? I mean, did he say something like, Look, Senator Thune and other members of the Republican Party, is that, you know, I understand the debt issue, the deficit issue, I understand the spending issue, but we had to do stimulus and he -- that he -- he supported the stimulus bill, pushed it hoping that that would, you know, get the economy all revved up and then people would be paying taxes into the economy and then we wouldn't have this horrible debt problem -- did he even -- did he say something like, you know, Just hold tight, it's going to turn around, or did he dismiss it?

THUNE: I think he believes, Greta, that the stimulus that was passed earlier is working. And we disagree with that. It may be creating some government jobs in Washington. It certainly isn't creating jobs out in the private sector of our economy.

But what came out to me in this discussion is there are very clear differences between the president and Senate Republicans about how to address the problems that are facing the country. And he continues to talk about, you know, the need to create these new programs, and of course. The biggest example of that, as I mentioned earlier, is health care. But I also think that going forward, all the things that he wants to accomplish require more spending, more borrowing and more debt for our children and grandchildren. We don't think that's a prescription that's good for the future of this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, why did two senators come out, one say that it seemed testy and the other say it was thin-skinned? Did it get a little rough-and-tumble inside there?

THUNE: I think what we -- the point that was trying -- that was -- we were trying to make, at least certain of our members were -- and I think it's a valid point -- is that bipartisanship is a two-way street. The president comes up and wants to visit with us, which is great We welcome that. But at the same time, he passes the stimulus bill on party-line votes, essentially. He passes his health care bill on an entirely party- line vote. The financial services regulation bill was virtually almost a party-line vote. And so what we see is the rhetoric of bipartisanship, but we don't see the action to follow it.

And so there was some frustration among Republican senators. And there were also, as I said earlier, some very strong disagreements between Republican senators and the president about how to deal with and approach these problems. And the issues that he raised with us were all issues on which Republican senators had very strong views. So it was a spirited discussion.

And I think the point that comes out of it is that there's got to be - - that bipartisanship is a two-way street. And so far, our members are very frustrated that they don't see any evidence that the president is following through on his rhetoric.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of the fact that Senator McCain was there (INAUDIBLE) they talked about immigration, and the president didn't announce he was about to issue a directive that he's going to send 1,200 troops, but it comes in a press release afterwards? Is that peculiar to you or not? It seems peculiar on the outside.

THUNE: It was peculiar. Clearly, they had made that decision. He raised the issue. Immigration was one of his main agenda items. We probably spent more time on that subject than any other subject, interaction between Senators McCain and Kyl and others who care deeply about the immigration issue and even a discussion about the importance of getting more National -- or getting National Guard troops down to the border. And yet the president made no mention of that.

So it seems to me, at least, that they had planned this announcement. They certainly could have mentioned it. But I think that was more about the political optics of being able to come out of that meeting and say, This is what I'm doing and this is how I'm responding to some of the concerns that the Republican senators are raising.

VAN SUSTEREN: Although it seems rather dismissive, the Republicans in there talking about an issue that's near and dear to them -- it seems rather dismissive not to engage them in something and tell them about something that's about to happen. But maybe that's just me.

THUNE: I think that would -- I think -- you heard Senator McCain earlier would concur with that assessment, as would most of the senators who were in the room during the meeting.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

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