WASHINGTON — Rep. James Lankford on Wednesday tried to get President Barack Obama to support the goal of balancing the budget in 10 years, but the president told him that it wouldn't benefit the economy, Lankford said.
At a closed-door meeting between House Republicans and the president on Capitol Hill, Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, also told Obama the Old Testament story of Isaiah's prophecy about King Hezekiah — that he had saved Jerusalem for his lifetime but it set it up for destruction later.
“That's my concern for where we're headed right now,” Lankford said he told the president and added that annual interest payments on the debt are expected to top $800 billion in 10 years.
Lankford, the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, asked the first question to Obama, and said in an interview later that he started out by noting that the president frequently campaigns against the House GOP. Better, Lankford said, would be to act on the matters where there's common ground.
“I'm just not going to do the things you want to do,” Lankford recalled the president saying. “You have to do some of the things I want to do. That's compromise.”
Lankford said he told the president that he wasn't talking about compromise but about moving on the things where no compromise was necessary.
On the balanced budget, Lankford said he told the president that President Bill Clinton's work with House Republicans in the mid-1990s was a high-water mark of Clinton's presidency. He said Obama responded that the situation was different then, that the economy was stronger.
Obama said he was more interested in economic growth than shooting for an “arbitrary” target for balancing the budget, Lankford said.
“It was never contentious,” Lankford said. “It was always friendly.”
Time would tell, Lankford said, whether the meeting would bear fruit. If it is just a one-time event and there is not a continuing dialogue, Lankford said, the meeting “won't matter a bit.”
The president is scheduled to go to Capitol Hill again Thursday to meet with Senate Republicans.