There was a rare moment in politics today. President Obama and House Republicans agreed to a face-to-face Q-and-A session on live TV. It took place at the House caucus retreat in Baltimore.
The showdown was tense, at times; and as you'd expect there was some laughter and sarcasm.
"I'm having fun, this is great," Obama said when Indiana GOP Rep. Mike Pence asked if he had time for more questions. "So are we," Pence replied.
The Republicans and Obama criticized each other in the session over various issues linked to the economy.
Another hot topic: the battle over health care.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah said the president reneged on a campaign promise to televise the debate over health care reform.
"You talked a lot about this deficit of trust. There's some things that have happened that I would appreciate your perspective on, because I can look you in the eye and tell you we have not been obstructionists. Democrats have the House and Senate and the presidency. And when you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN, you didn't. And I was disappointed, and I think a lot of Americans were disappointed," Chaffetz said.
Pres. Obama admitted some mistakes.
"Look, the truth of the matter is that if you look at the health care process - just over the course of the year - overwhelmingly the majority of it actually was on C-SPAN, because it was taking place in congressional hearings in which you guys were participating. I mean, how many committees were there that helped to shape this bill? Countless hearings took place. Now, I kicked it off, by the way, with a meeting with many of you, including your key leadership. What is true, there's no doubt about it, is that once it got through the committee process and there were now a series of meetings taking place all over the Capitol trying to figure out how to get the thing together - that was a messy process. And I take responsibility for not having structured it in a way where it was all taking place in one place that could be filmed, Obama responded.
Other times, some Republicans peppered their questions with conservative talking points. The president listened, but would cut in to share his thoughts.
"I know there's a question in there somewhere, because you're making a whole bunch of assertions, half of which I disagree with," Obama said to Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
Pres. Obama also got his message out.
After the event, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said "In some places I kind of felt like I was in my high school assembly being lectured by my principal."
The president likely hopes this part of his message was heard:
"I think both sides can take some blame for a sour climate on Capitol Hill. What I can do maybe to help is to try to bring Republican and Democratic leadership together on a more regular basis with me. That's, I think, a failure on my part, is to try to foster better communications even if there's disagreement. And I will try to see if we can do more of that this year, " Pres. Obama told the GOP lawmakers.
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