Obama, McConnell Have Plenty to Discuss With Little to Say After

President Barack Obama and incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had plenty to talk about during a White House meeting today and almost nothing to say about what they discussed.

The president and the man who will be setting the Senate’s agenda for the final two years of Obama’s term held a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office to discuss what can be accomplished in the final days of the current Congress and their priorities for 2015.

“There are opportunities for us to find common ground and move the country forward, both in the short term and over the longer term as well,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today at a briefing before the meeting.

The White House wouldn’t provide details about what the two men discussed. McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, called the session “a good meeting” and declined to give specifics.

In the immediate future, Obama and McConnell share a goal of keeping the government operating and avoiding a repeat of last year’s 16-day partial federal shutdown.

“There will be no government shutdowns and no default on the national debt,” McConnell told reporters in Louisville the day after the Nov. 4 election.

Speaking yesterday at a Wall Street Journal event in Washington, McConnell called 2014 a “butt-kicking election” for Obama and his party, in which “by any objective standard,” the president and his policies “got crushed.”

Taxes, Trade

Trade and taxes may be two areas where Obama and Republicans can find agreement.

Obama spoke today before his meeting with McConnell at the Business Roundtable with dozens of chief executive officers in the audience. Obama identified trade as one of his top four legislative priorities, saying the key to success will be convincing skeptical Democrats that free-trade agreements will help rather than hurt U.S. workers.

McConnell, when he spoke yesterday, also cited trade as a potential area of common ground.

Speaking to the group of CEOs, Obama also said there may be a chance to work on revamping the tax code at the start of 2015, starting first with corporate taxes. “There is definitely a deal to be done,” he said.

Both parties vowed to try a reset of White House-congressional relations after Republicans overturned the Democrats’ Senate majority in the election. It hasn’t all gone smoothly.

McConnell said at the time that voters “sent a strong message to Washington: They voted for a new direction,” adding that bipartisanship in the next Congress will hinge on the Obama’s ability to respect that message.

Testy Relationship

Like House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican who has had a testy relationship with the president, McConnell has criticized Obama’s promise to make deeper cuts in U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions as part of an agreement in which China will set its first cap on carbon emissions.

McConnell and Boehner have faulted Obama for failing to approve construction of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline.

After Obama used executive authority to defer deportations for as many as five million undocumented immigrations over the objections of Republicans, McConnell and Boehner warned that he risked poisoning relations at the Capitol.

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