- A blizzard bearing down on Washington may force delay
- Relationship better known for snubs than shared interests
President Barack Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan may sit down together at the White House for a long-anticipated meeting as soon as next week, a person familiar with their plans said.
The blizzard bearing down on Washington may force them to postpone if the capital remains shut down at the start of next week.
The two men haven’t spent significant time together since Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, was sworn in as speaker in October. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said last week that the president hoped that they would have a chance to talk face-to-face “relatively soon.” The person who said the meeting may happen next week asked for anonymity because the timing hasn’t been settled.
It wasn’t clear whether other congressional leaders would take part. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Doug Andres, a spokesman for Ryan, said that “nothing is currently scheduled.” Jen Friedman, deputy White House press secretary, declined to comment.
Obama, 54, and Ryan, 45, have enough in common personally and in some policy areas for the foundation of a relationship, if either of them desired one. They also have enough accrued tension to dissuade either from bothering in Obama’s final year in office.
Ryan was offended in April 2011 when Obama disparaged his proposal to overhaul the federal budget while Ryan sat in the front row at a speech. At the time, the president and congressional Republicans were wrangling over strategies to reduce the federal deficit. In a speech at George Washington University, Obama said that a proposal by then-House Budget Committee chairman Ryan was less a fiscal plan than a stab at "changing the basic social compact in America" by cutting programs including Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps and education while reducing top income tax rates.
Ryan was sitting in the front row of the audience.
"What we heard was a partisan broadside from our campaigner-in-chief,” Ryan told reporters afterward. "We don’t need partisanship, we don’t need demagoguery."
Obama later said his approach was a mistake. The relationship between the two was further strained during Obama’s 2012 re-election, in which Republican challenger Mitt Romney named Ryan as his running mate.
While Ryan has sought to repeal Obama’s health care expansion, the Affordable Care Act, the speaker has supported Obama’s 12-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Ryan has proposed an anti-poverty program, including support for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families, a goal shared by Obama. Ryan also largely agrees with Obama’s proposal to overhaul the criminal justice system by reducing prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.
More often, though, they clash. When Obama answered questions from the public on Twitter last week, Ryan posted a query Obama’s plans to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba terrorist prison. Obama ignored the query.
While Ryan and Obama represent significantly different constituencies, they fill somewhat parallel roles in their parties as dynamic leaders with broad appeal, including to independents. They also share a reputation for preferring pragmatism over ideology.
Both men have children at home and both have made parenting and family life central to their public identities. They are also both famously athletic, though their preferences again diverge. Ryan is a workout fanatic who doesn’t share the president’s love of golf and basketball; Obama has shown no interest in hunting.