Obama and Boehner meet amid gridlock

Speaker of the House John Boehner joined President Obama in the Oval Office for an hourlong meeting on Tuesday.
Speaker of the House John Boehner joined President Obama in the Oval Office for an hourlong meeting on Tuesday. Alex Wong/EPA

WASHINGTON — President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner sat down for an Oval Office face-to-face on Tuesday, the first publicly known meeting of its kind since Obama took office in 2009 not aimed at avoiding a looming fiscal crisis.

The hourlong meeting between the political adversaries came even as the leadership in both parties in Washington have largely resigned themselves to the fact that almost no legislation will break through the election-year partisan gridlock.

Obama has spent the month since his State of the Union address vowing to circumvent Congress whenever possible — and acknowledging publicly that he does not have high hopes for progress on economic issues or an immigration overhaul.


“We’ve got a Congress that prefers to say no rather than yes right now,” Obama told Democratic governors last week. “They don’t have an affirmative agenda. Their main strategy is to just try to do nothing and see if they can — falsely — give people a sense that somehow the policies that we’re trying to pursue aren’t working for them.”

At the same time, Boehner has done little to suggest his House would advance any of the president’s agenda in the months leading up to the midterm elections, telling his members this month that he would not pursue the immigration legislation that Obama supports, but which angered conservative Republicans.

And Republicans have promised to roll back or change the Affordable Care Act. In a message posted on Twitter, even as the speaker was arriving at the White House, Boehner took a political jab at the president’s top domestic policy.

“#ObamaCare may increase premiums for 11 million workers, report says,” the tweet read.

The meeting, the first publicly acknowledged one between the two men since they tried to avert a fiscal crisis in December 2012, appeared not to have broken new ground on any particular issue in Washington. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters that “not all conversations and meetings between the president and congressional leaders are read out to the press.”


Officials on both sides characterized Tuesday’s meeting as “constructive” and offered a long list of subjects that were touched on.


Debbie Dingell will run for husband’s seat

WASHINGTON — Democrat Debbie Dingell will run for the House seat currently held by her husband, John, who announced this week that he will retire after the longest congressional career in history, a Democratic official said Tuesday.

Debbie Dingell, 60, is chairwoman of the Wayne State University Board of Governors, a former executive with General Motors, and a member of the Democratic National Committee. She had been widely expected to seek the southeast Michigan seat in a district that President Obama won comfortably in 2012 and 2008.

Democrats are expected to easily hold the seat.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly discuss the plans by name ahead of a formal announcement.

John Dingell, 87, who was elected to his late father’s seat in 1955 and has held it ever since, announced on Monday that he would retire at the end of his term. The once powerful committee chairman played a key role in some of the biggest liberal legislative victories of the past 60 years, including the creation of the Medicare program in 1965, the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, and the 1973 Endangered Species Act.


He was a major influence in passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Months later, however, Democrats lost the majority in the House and control of the agenda. Partisan divisions have been more pronounced in Congress, limiting bipartisan efforts to pass legislation.


Clinton urges Democrats to defend health care act

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For Democrats anxious about preserving their Senate majority in a difficult midterm election year, Bill Clinton on Tuesday suggested a path forward: Defend the health care law, recommit to a populist theme of rising wages and economic growth, and go after the super PACs flooding the airwaves with negative ads.

The former president made his first campaign stop of 2014 here in Kentucky to boost the candidacy of Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Clinton protege and family friend who is running to try to unseat Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

President Obama and his signature health care law are deeply unpopular in Kentucky. But Clinton strongly defended the law, acknowledging it was complicated but arguing that it has given more people in Kentucky access to affordable health care and brought down their costs.

He also repeatedly praised Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat and leading proponent of the law, and laid blame on McConnell and other Republicans for creating what Clinton called ‘‘constant conflict.’’

‘‘You know what in a sane environment people do when they have problems?’’ Clinton said. ‘‘They fix the problems. In the end, that’s really what Alison’s saying: ‘Send me to Washington, I’ll do something that makes sense, and I’ll fix it.’ The other choice is to just pout . . . and make as many problems as you can, stop anything good from happening — and if you can’t stop it, at least bad-mouth it.’’


But Grimes never mentioned the health care law in her nearly 30-minute speech, nor did she reference Obama. Instead, she spoke nostalgically about the Clinton presidency, summing up those eight years as ‘‘goodbye, recession; hello, prosperity.’’