Obama Meets with Republican Congressional Leaders

Barack Obama, the Democratic U.S. president now in his last year in office, is meeting Tuesday with the top Republican congressional leaders to see if they can reach accord on 2016 legislative goals.

Even with the two political parties already focused on the presidential election campaign to pick his successor, Obama is talking with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan at the White House. After the three meet, Obama is hosting Ryan for a private lunch, the president’s first face-to-face meeting with Ryan since the Wisconsin congressman assumed leadership of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives three months ago.

The White House said Obama was hoping to build on an agreement at the end of last year on a bipartisan federal budget. The fractious parties both yielded on some of their spending priorities, averting the possibility of a government shutdown as the Christmas and New Year’s holidays neared.

 

At odds with Republicans

Obama has frequently been at odds with opposition Republican lawmakers in Congress during the first seven years of his White House tenure, often calling for more spending on domestic programs while Republicans sought to scale back social welfare programs and boost defense and national security funding.

Within hours of Ryan’s White House visit, House Republicans will attempt to override Obama’s veto of legislation they passed to overturn his national health care reforms. But with solid Democratic support for the health care law, Republicans in both the House and Senate lack the two-thirds majorities they would need to override the veto.

Obama is seeking congressional approval of his proposed Pacific Rim free-trade deal with 11 other nations, a pact that more Republicans favor than Democrats. But it is unclear when Congress might vote on it, possibly not till after next November’s presidential election, just weeks before he leaves office in January 2017.

Obama and the Republican leaders could agree to move ahead on criminal justice reforms that would ease strict sentencing requirements for some nonviolent offenders.

Debt burden

The White House said the president would also seek to reach accord on the need for dealing with the massive debts the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has incurred and burgeoning opioid addiction in the U.S.

The Republican leaders are likely to call for further sanctions against North Korea in the wake of its latest nuclear test. Other topics could include energy legislation, Vice President Joe Biden’s effort to energize research to cure cancer and Obama’s so-far unsuccessful effort to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that houses suspected terrorists.

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