Boehner, McConnell "encouraged" by meeting with Obama

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, to talk about their lunch meeting with President Obama to discuss rising gasoline prices.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
John Boehner, Mitch McConnell
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

After a low-key meeting with President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said they are optimistic about finding common ground on issues like jobs and energy policy.

"Frankly, it was a very good lunch, and I'm encouraged by the attitude and the tone we had during the meeting," Boehner told reporters.

The speaker said Mr. Obama's support for the Jobs Act, a package of House jobs bills aimed at helping small businesses, was "very clear." Mr. Obama's "comments about trying to find some common ground on some of our bipartisan energy bills were also welcome signs," Boehner added.

The GOP leaders said they hope to see Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid take up the Republican-backed bills that have already been passed in the House. "The bottleneck to accomplishing things on a bipartisan basis has been the U.S. Senate," McConnell said.

One clear area of disagreement between the president and Republicans remains the president's decision not to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The administration is re-evaluating the pipeline now that TransCanada Corp. is promising to re-route it, so it doesn't run through a sensitive environmental area in Nebraska.

McConnell noted today that unions are in favor of the pipeline's construction and that the Nebraska issue is nearly solved. "There's really no reason not to create those jobs now rather than after the president's re-election," he said.

In addition to Boehner and McConnell, Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Reid attended the meeting.

The meeting came one day after moderate Republican Olympia Snowe announced her retirement from the Senate, citing hyper-partisanship in Congress.

McConnell said that his caucus was "surprised and disappointed" by Snowe's decision not to see a fourth term, calling her an "extraordinarily effective member" who would have been re-elected comfortably. The Republican leader did not address her criticisms of the GOP.