‘I Am Not an Ideologue,’ Obama Tells GOP
Republicans pushed back on taxes and spending, and accused Obama of not taking their ideas seriously.
Obama, attending the House Republicans' retreat in Baltimore, began with conciliatory remarks but soon became more pointed. He said a GOP-driven "politics of no" was blocking action on bills that could help Americans obtain jobs and health care.
In a sometimes-barbed exchange, he said some in the audience have attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects funded by the stimulus package they voted against. Obama also questioned why Republicans have overwhelmingly opposed his tax-cut policies, which he said have benefited 95 percent of American families.
"The notion that this was a radical package is just not true," Obama said. "I am not an ideologue."
GOP lawmakers pressed the president to pledge to support a line-item veto for spending bills and across-the-board tax cuts. Obama demurred, saying billionaires don't need new tax cuts.
In his opening remarks, Obama criticized a Washington culture driven by opinion polls and nonstop political campaigns.
"I don't think the American people want us to focus on our job security, they want us to focus on their job security," he said.
The president acknowledged that Republicans have joined Democrats in some efforts, such as sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. But he said he was disappointed and perplexed by virtually unanimous GOP opposition to other programs, such as the $787 billion economic stimulus bill enacted a year ago.
He also noted overwhelming Republican opposition to his proposed overhaul of the nation's health care, which now is in legislative peril. Obama said he would gladly look at better ideas, but he urged Republicans to acknowledge the difficulties that many Americans face in obtaining good health care.
Obama said it makes ideological sense for Democrats and Republicans to work together on some issues such as charging fees to banks that benefited from a federal bailout, temporarily freezing some government spending, keeping jobs from being exported and paying for new government programs when they are created.
Republicans have sharply criticized Obama's approach to most of these issues.