White House and Hill Republicans Make Nice While Differences Remain

A meeting of politically diverse minds ended without bloodshed at the White House Wednesday with both Capitol Hill Republican leaders and the White House painting positive images of the conversation, though not exactly the end of partisanship as we know it.

"Frankly, it was a very good lunch and I'm encouraged by the attitude and the tone that we had during the meeting," House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters afterwards.

The White House's take was about the same. "[T]here is reason to hope that the conventional wisdom that holds that Congress held by the opposition party, or largely controlled by the opposition party, cannot get any business done with the President in an election year is wrong," Spokesman Jay Carney said, "and that if folks focus on the areas of agreement and work in a cooperative, bipartisan fashion, we can advance the American people's agenda."

The meeting with top Democrats and Republicans from both houses of Congress spanned foreign and domestic policy, including energy and jobs. Both sides said the president saw some space to work with House Republicans on their jobs proposals, specifically in the area of small business assistance.

"I think the president's support of the JOBS Act was very clear," Boehner told reporters of the package of proposals presented by Republicans.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the president has actually been receptive to many House-passed bills and blamed the Democratic-Controlled Senate for stalling progress, "As I think all of you know, the bottleneck to accomplishing things on a bipartisan basis has actually been the United States Senate."

Still, there are disagreements aplenty between Congress and the White House. Among the feistiest in recent months has been the nixed Keystone pipeline project, which would have funneled oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. After Capitol Hill forced an expedited deadline, President Obama killed the project. Since then, the White House has supported a new plan by the same Canadian company to build a pipeline that would not cross Canada's borders, but Senator McConnell said that the new permit request doesn't actually require the president's approval.

Speaking of the original proposal, Speaker Boehner offered, "I did press the president on the Keystone Pipeline. The president says 'well, you're gonna get part of it.' I just wish we were gonna get the part that would actually deliver the oil out of Canada and out of North Dakota."

Still, the plan remains on hold unless and until the company seeking the international pipeline wants to submit a new permit request, so Carney told reporters there's little virtue in pushing for a permit that doesn't currently exist. He added, "[A]nybody out there who's telling his or her constituents that approval of Keystone will somehow lower the price of gas at their local gas station is blowing a lot of smoke."

It's been months since the last meeting between the Republican leadership and the White House, though there have been occasional phone calls. By all accounts, Wednesday's meeting was productive, but the speaker admitted he'll have to wait and see whether there is another invitation anytime soon.