WASHINGTON (AP) — They will be the top three players in political Washington for the next two years: President Barack Obama, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner.
Within 24 hours of one another, the Democratic president and the two Republicans who will lead Congress stepped before different lecterns this week to deconstruct the messages of the 2014 elections, the top issues of the day and prospects for action in the next two years.
A look at where they agree — and don't — and what they think of one another:
THE MESSAGE OF ELECTION 2014
—Obama: "The resounding message not just of this election, but basically the last several is: Get stuff done."
—McConnell: "What the voters were saying ... was a couple of things. Number one, they're obviously not satisfied with the direction of the administration. But at the same time I heard a lot of discussion about dysfunction in Washington."
—Boehner: "The American people made it clear Election Day: They want to get things done, and they don't want the president acting on a unilateral basis."
—Obama, saying he's ready to act on his own on immigration changes: "Before the end of the year, we're going to take whatever lawful actions that I can take that I believe will improve the functioning of our immigration system. ... What I'm not going to do is just wait."
—McConnell: "The president choosing to do a lot of things unilaterally on immigration would be a big mistake. ... It's like waving a red flag in front of a bull to say: 'If you guys don't do what I want, I'm going to do it on my own.' ... I hope he won't do that, because I do think it poisons the well for the opportunity to address a very important domestic issue."
—Boehner: "I've made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally ... he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress. It's as simple as that."
FUTURE OF THE HEALTH CARE LAW
—Obama: "Repeal of the law, I won't sign."
—McConnell, noting Obama can veto any attempt to repeal the law: "If I had the ability, obviously, I'd get rid of it. Obviously, it's also true he's still there."
—Boehner: "The House, I'm sure, at some point next year, will move to repeal 'Obamacare' because it should be repealed and it should be replaced with common-sense reforms that respect the doctor-patient relationship."
CHANGE THE HEALTH CARE LAW?
—Obama: "There's no law that's ever been passed that is perfect. And given the contentious nature in which it was passed in the first place, there are places where if I were just drafting a bill on our own, we would've made those changes back then. And certainly, as we've been implementing, there are some other areas where we think we can do even better. So, you know, if in fact one of the items on Mitch McConnell's agenda and John Boehner's agenda is to make responsible changes to the Affordable Care Act to make it work better, I'm going to be very open and receptive to hearing those ideas. ... The individual mandate (to have health insurance) is a line I can't cross."
—McConnell: "There are pieces of it that are deeply, deeply unpopular with the American people: the medical device tax, which has exported an enormous number of jobs. The loss of the 40-hour work week — big, big, mistake. That ought to be restored. The individual mandate: People hate it." Regarding the workweek issue, critics of the law say some employers are cutting back workers' hours to avoid having to provide health insurance.
—Boehner: "There's a bipartisan majority in the House and Senate for repealing the medical device tax. I think there's a bipartisan majority in the House and Senate for getting rid of the IPAB, the Independent Payment Advisory Board — the rationing board in 'Obamacare.' How about the individual mandate? There are a lot of Democrats and Republicans who believe this is unfair."
—Obama: "Anywhere we can find common ground, I'm eager to pursue it." He mentioned trade agreements, tax reform, spending on infrastructure, improving early childhood education.
—McConnell: "When the American people choose divided government, I don't think it means they don't want us to do anything. I think it means they want us to look for areas of agreement." He mentioned trade agreements, tax reform.
—Boehner: "Finding common ground can be hard work, but it'll be even harder if the president isn't willing to work with us. Yesterday we heard him say that he may double down on his go-it-alone approach."
COMMON GROUND — NOT
—Obama: "Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign. I'm pretty sure I'll take some actions that some in Congress will not like. That's natural."
—McConnell: "There are differences, and we will certainly be voting on things as well that we think the administration is not — they seem to have had no interest, for example, in doing anything serious on the energy front."
—Boehner: "If the president continues to act on his own, he is going to poison the well. When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he's going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path."
SIZING UP ONE ANOTHER
—Obama on McConnell: "To his credit, he has never made a promise that he couldn't deliver. And he knows the legislative process well. He obviously knows his caucus well."
—McConnell on Obama: "The president of the United States can deliver the members of his party to vote for a deal that he makes, or he can veto legislation. He's a player. That's the way our system works."
—Obama on McConnell: "I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell."
—McConnell on Obama: "The relationship I have with the president has always been cordial. ... It's not a personality problem here. My attitude about all this at this point is trust but verify. I mean, let's see."
—Boehner on Obama: "My job's not to get along with the president just to get along with him, although we ... actually have a nice relationship."
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