Rahm’s Republican outreach

RAHM’S REPUBLICAN OUTREACH…. No one seriously expects congressional Republicans to roll up their sleeves and start working with Democrats on policy solutions. That’s just not how this game is played.

The question is how open GOP lawmakers are to outreach. The New York Times reported this morning that the House Republican caucus has “so far balked” at a chance to meet with the incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, but Emanuel spent the day on the Hill anyway, and had some individual meetings with Republicans willing to let him in their offices.

Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said President-elect Barack Obama wants to work with Republicans, saying the new chief executive will “welcome their ideas” on how to resolve the ongoing financial crisis the country faces.

Emanuel met today with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the entire GOP leadership from that chamber for about 30 minutes, and is currently huddling with House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.). A one-on-one session with House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) will follow the Pence meeting.

Emanuel noted that he personally had spoken to almost two dozen Republicans in the last two weeks to tell them that the new administration is serious about bipartisan cooperation.

“We welcome their ideas and their concepts,” Emanuel told reporters after his meeting with McConnell and other Senate Republicans. “It’s challenging times economically. The middle class is working harder, earning less and paying more. The challenges facing the country require that people of both parties work together to solve those problems.”

“I told them that I welcome their ideas, be that in their area of education, health care, taxes, energy policy, national security,” Emanuel added. “Give us those ideas, because we are formulating what we’re going to do in the Obama administration.”

Sen. John Ensign (Nev.), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said Emanuel demonstrated “a really good attitude about wanting to work with us” in his meeting with Senate Republicans, but noted there were no detailed policy negotiations during their conversation with Obama’s new top aide.

Ensign, referring to Emanuel, added, “He gave us all his personal cell phone. He said he promised to get back us on issues within 24 hours.”

Incoming NRSC Chair John Cornyn praised Emanuel’s outreach. “He thought it was important enough to come over and spend an hour with us,” Cornyn said. “[That] speaks volumes, more than just what he said.”

Ensign added that that he was “very pleased” with today’s conversation, and was optimistic about the future. “His words were basically ‘this is not a head-fake on bipartisanship. This is real.’ They really want to work in a bipartisan fashion and it’s not about just saying it, they actually plan on doing it,” Ensign said. “Those are exactly the right words to use.”

Will this last? I doubt it. But at least they’re getting off on the right foot, right?