WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama was welcoming House and Senate leaders from both parties to the White House for drinks Wednesday night as he continues to lobby lawmakers to pass his economic recovery bill despite stiff GOP opposition.
The getting-to-know-you-better session was to get under way after the House voted 244-188 to approve Obama's $819 billion stimulus bill. It was a swift victory for the new president, but it was achieved without a single Republican vote despite Obama's heavy push for a bipartisan show of support on the measure.
Republicans say the bill devotes too little money to tax cuts and too much on spending.
Obama, who says bold action is needed to get the economy moving again, issued a statement applauding the vote. He asked Congress to move "swiftly and boldly" to give the bill final approval.
The president went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with Republicans, some of whom have called parts of the plan "insane." House Republican leader John Boehner, of Ohio, one of the bill's lead opponents, was among the two dozen lawmakers invited to the White House.
"Someone reported that this was a celebration party for passage of the bill in the House," Boehner joked to reporters before joining his Republican colleagues in a unanimous vote against the president. "If so, I don't know why they'd want the skunk at the garden party. But I'm going to go and smile." Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the invitation was extended because Obama wants to get to know the lawmakers better and build a working relationship with them so they all can work together, in a bipartisan fashion, to do the people's business.
Besides Boehner, the House guests included Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C.; and Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va. The Senate guest list included Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.