WASHINGTON (WHNT)-President Obama met House Republicans on their turf Wednesday in an attempt to break an impasse on several key fiscal issues, but a forum that both sides called cordial and polite still offered little in actual breakthrough.
North Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) told WHNT News 19 that the president met with the 232 members of the GOP House Caucus for about an hour and a half on Capitol Hill. Rep. Brooks said President Obama spoke from a podium for approximately 30 minutes before taking questions from House members for the remainder of the meeting. Brooks stated that the ongoing federal budget battle between the White House and Congress dominated most of the dialogue.
"We had a very candid and frank discussion," said Rep. Brooks, who was reelected last November. "There was significant discussion prompted by the House Republicans to try to pin the president down on what his thoughts were on the deficits and accumulated debt. In particular, he was asked whether we ought to have a goal to try and balance the budget in ten years...I was a little surprised because the president declined to answer the question. He did not answer 'yes' or 'no' to whether a ten year budget was a worthwhile goal of Washington D.C."
Republican House members are advocating serious spending cuts to trim yearly deficits that now top one trillion dollars, while the president has called for tax increases. But noticeably absent from Wednesday's discussion was sequestration. Rep. Brooks said the automatic spending cuts are still a hot topic locally, but not on the radar of most other House members, many of whom represent districts that are far less reliant on federal spending.
"I was not surprised that the president did not bring up sequestration," said Brooks. "He did not offer any solutions to sequestration, and he did not ask the GOP conference for any solutions to sequestration."
Congressman Brooks said he hoped more meetings with the president would occur in the near future. Brooks said the last meeting between Mr. Obama and GOP house members happened almost two years ago in the summer of 2011.
"It was good bridge building, but you don't build a bridge in one day," said Brooks.
Rep. Brooks also told WHNT News 19 that he and fellow House members continue to work on legislation that would restore the defense cut side of sequestration beginning with the new fiscal year in October. The Department of Defense took approximately fifty percent of the automatic federal spending cuts that were implemented earlier in the month, impacting thousands of workers at Redstone Arsenal and surrounding defense contractors.