Political Notebook

Bruised feelings after Obama-GOP talk

As he left, the president said, “We had a good, frank discussion on a whole range of issues.’’ Obama came to the Capitol hoping to secure support on issues including immigration. As he left, the president said, “We had a good, frank discussion on a whole range of issues.’’ Obama came to the Capitol hoping to secure support on issues including immigration. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
By Washington Post Associated Press Associated Press
May 26, 2010

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WASHINGTON — President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill for a rare meeting yesterday with Senate Republicans, but the 75-minute session yielded little progress on hot-button topics and left some senators with bruised feelings.

“He needs to take a Valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans,’’ Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, told reporters. “He’s pretty thin-skinned.’’

Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas described the meeting as “testy,’’ and fellow GOP Senator John Thune of South Dakota called it a “lively discussion.’’ Others questioned whether the “symbolism’’ of Obama’s approach matched the actions of his congressional Democratic allies.

In his first meeting with the Senate Republican caucus in a year, Obama came to the Capitol hoping to secure support on a broad range of issues, including immigration. As he left, the president said, “We had a good, frank discussion on a whole range of issues.’’

But his spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged that little agreement was reached. “Obviously, there were continued differences on some of these issues. But the president believes that direct dialogue is better than posturing, and he was pleased to have the opportunity to share views with the conference,’’ Gibbs said.

Brownback said Obama explained several times that he was “under pressure from his left’’ on major issues, including climate change. Obama asked Republicans to be willing to take some of the same criticism from their right flank in working toward bipartisan accords, other senators said.

The most contentious moment came during an exchange between Obama and Senator John McCain of Arizona, his 2008 presidential rival, over immigration. “I said we needed to secure the border first,’’ McCain recounted. But according to several senators, Obama argued in favor of a comprehensive bill that also provided a pathway to citizenship for illegal residents, similar to the legislation that McCain backed in 2007.

McCain also challenged Obama on the new Arizona immigration law, which Obama has criticized as “misdirected’’ because critics say it will lead to legal residents facing intrusive police scrutiny.

“He said he still believed it was open to discrimination,’’ McCain told reporters. “I pointed out that members of his administration who have not read the law have mischaracterized the law.’’

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has worked on immigration and energy legislation with the White House, said he urged Obama to step back from a push on immigration legislation and instead go for a scaled-back energy bill. The oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico has doomed the chances of passing a comprehensive bill that would include more offshore drilling and a cap on carbon emission, Graham said.

“Timing matters,’’ he said, arguing for a smaller bill to increase nuclear power capacity and boost funding for alternative energy research.

And Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, still smarting over his failed negotiations with Democrats over the financial regulation bill the Senate approved last week, said he challenged Obama on his request for bipartisan cooperation.

“I’ve always found it’s good to be frank. If you have an opportunity to talk to someone, you should talk about what’s on your mind,’’ Corker told reporters. He questioned “the audacity’’ of Obama’s asking for Republican help after bipartisan talks on financial reform broke down and his landmark health-care bill passed solely on Democratic votes.

“My question is again: How can you reconcile that duplicity?’’ Corker said.

— Washington

Senate hopeful Paul dons scrubs on campaign trail
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Dressed in doctor scrubs, senatorial candidate Rand Paul sought to ditch the image of politician in his first campaign appearance since a round of interviews in which he dismayed fellow Republicans by discussing his views on racial segregation.

Paul spoke to a friendly audience at a civic club yesterday in his hometown of Bowling Green.

He drew chuckles when he described last week’s campaign victory with the words of English novelist Charles Dickens: “It was the best of it times. It was the worst of times.’’

Last week Paul suggested that the federal government should not have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Paul told the local group he does not want to repeal the Civil Rights Act.

Paul also said he expects there will be a campaign staff shakeup. He won the GOP nomination last week with a campaign staff made up largely of political novices and volunteers.

— Associated Press

Leader of Talking Heads sues Florida’s governor
MIAMI — Governor Charlie Crist of Florida is being sued for $1 million for using a Talking Heads song in a campaign ad without the band’s permission.

The band’s former lead singer, David Byrne, sued the governor Monday in Tampa for using “Road to Nowhere’’ in an online attack ad against Marco Rubio, the probable Republican nominee for Florida’s open US Senate seat. Crist is running as an independent.

Byrne said in a statement his fans might not respect him as much if he lets his songs be used in ads.

— Associated Press top stories on Twitter

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