Bob Corker: Obama’s GOP outreach ‘was optics,’ Senate in ‘death spiral’

Updated 11:48 a.m.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Thursday that President Obama shouldn't bother trying to talk to Republican lawmakers unless he's willing to make considerable policy concessions to the GOP.


Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). (Jim Watson/AFP)

Corker was closely involved in White House outreach to Republicans over the course of last summer, a charm campaign that included fancy dinners at the White House and nearby luxury hotels and a rare golf outing involving Obama, Corker and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) at Joint Base Andrews.

But Corker dismissed the outreach Thursday. "That process, believe it or not, tore down trust," he said, adding later that the talks "were never serious."

"I wouldn’t engage in those conversations if I were them, because I don’t think they were ever earnest. I think it was optics, it was disappointing, and if anything, it broke down trust," he said.

Corker said the talks aren't working because Obama "is afraid to stretch his base. He’s appealing to the base right now. That’s been the problem, that’s why we haven’t had the ability to solve the major problems of the day, he’s afraid of his base. He’s not willing to take his base and to stretch it into a place where we actually reach an accommodation with the other side. I would say to him, please don’t do that again, unless you’re in earnest wanting to solve a problem, don’t do that again. You’re better off not acting like you want to solve a problem you really don’t want to solve. That breaks down trust."

Corker made the comments during a reporter roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

The senator said that he spent last week's congressional recess traveling the country on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the first time he has spent a full week on the road helping the Senate Republican campaign arm.

"The Senate has been on the verge of a death spiral for several months, ever since Nov. 20," Corker said, referencing the day that Democrats voted to change Senate rules regarding the confirmation on most nominees.

"I’ve come to the conclusion that the United State Senate will not ever function in an appropriate way with the leadership that we now have in place. It’s not going to. I’m going to do everything I can," he added.

Clarification: This item has been updated to reflect that Corker's work on behalf of the NRSC was the first time he spent a full week doing so.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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