President Barack Obama and congressional leaders talked about handling Ebola, the Islamic state and immigration, among other topics at their first meeting at the White House since the aftermath of the Republican party's massive victory in Tuesday’s elections.
The lunch meeting, which ran more than two hours, involved top administration officials and 13 members of Congress, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, House Speaker John Bohener (R-Ohio), outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“The one thing that I committed to both Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell is that I’m not going to judge ideas based on whether they’re Democratic or Republican, I’m going to be judging them based on whether or not they work,” Obama told reporters before the meeting began. “There’s going to be some specific work we have to get done during the next several weeks before the new Congress commences, and my hope is that even as we enter into a new Congress, the previous Congress has an opportunity, still, to make progress on a whole bunch of fronts.”
The congressional leaders emerged from the meeting and did not stop to talk to reporters.
Here are 5 things to know about the meeting.
1. Obama’s Ebola Czar Out of the Shadows
Obama’s Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain was among the administration officials in the meeting. Klain, a longtime Democratic operative, was named as Ebola czar to coordinate the administration’s efforts to treat Ebola in the United States and West Africa. But Klain has been criticized for keeping a low profile and not talking to the media or Congress.
The Obama administration has asked Congress for $6.2 billion in additional funding to fight Ebola.
Obama told members of Congress they should act now to support the request for emergency funding to combat Ebola abroad and increase our preparedness at home, a White House press release describing the meeting said.
2. Boehner’s Warning on Immigration
One day after the election, Obama said he would take executive action by the end of the year that would potentially bestow legal status on millions of illegal immigrants.
On Friday, Obama repeated his plan to members “in light of the House’s inability to pass a comprehensive bill,” as the White House news release put it.
Boehner repeated to Obama what he has been telling the press in recent days.
“The speaker warned that unilateral action by the president on executive amnesty will erase any chances of doing immigration reform and will also make it harder for Congress and the White House to work together successfully on other areas where there might otherwise be common ground,” according to a press release from the speaker’s office about the meeting.
3. Fighting the Islamic State
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged Congress to provide the $5.6 billion in additional resources to combat the Islamic State forces in Syrian and Iraq.
During the meeting, Boehner asked Obama to send Congress a new Authorization for Use of Military Force proposal.
The White House has said the 2001 authorization gave the administration legal authority to go into Iraq and battle the Islamic State, but is nevertheless seeking Congress’s stamp of approval on another resolution.
4. More Than 40 Bills
During the lunch meeting, Boehner told Obama that the House already passed more than 40 bills that were blocked by the Democratic Senate. With a new majority coming to the Senate in January, some of those House bills would be a good place to start in making progress, Boehner said.
The speaker’s office said these bills include the approval of the Keystone pipeline, restoring the 40-hour workweek, and supporting charter schools.
5. What’s for Lunch?
According to the White House, the lunch menu was:
Bibb Lettuce, Frisee and Endive, Heirloom Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Toasted Shallot Dressing, Herb Crusted Sea Bass, Tomato-Lemon Confit Grilled Vegetables, Pumpkin Tart, Vanilla Whipped Cream and Candied Ginger.