Davis: Meeting with Bush ‘lively’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

WASHINGTON – Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham said a private meeting with seven fellow Democrats and President Bush Friday was a “lively meeting” that opened communication between the two parties.

Bush requested the meeting with the centrist Democrats as he adjusts to working with a Democratic-controlled Congress. The House members who attended said they discussed the Iraq war, free trade, appropriations and immigration.

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“It was a lively meeting,” Davis said in an interview Monday of the 40-minute discussion at the White House. “The president was very generous with his time and it was an animated discussion.”

Such meetings are helpful to open communication between the parties, Davis said.

“It’s important for the president to hear every now and then from people who disagree with him,” he said. “It’s helpful that he hear dissenting opinions when they are presented in a respectful manner.”

Iraq is one such issue on which they disagree.

Davis said the president made it very clear that it was absolutely vital for the interest of Americans that we be successful in Iraq.

“The question I raised concerned the relevance of public opinion in this matter,” Davis said. “If you believe the polls, the public is moving away from the president’s policy. If it’s clear the public is moving decisively against his policy, that should give him pause. The president disagreed.”

When speaking to reporters following the meeting, Davis said, “The American people are wanting solutions. They’re wanting results. All the pundits tell us to expect gridlock for the next couple of years and we would make a wonderful gift to the American people if we proved them wrong.”

Davis, co-chairman of the moderate New Democrat Caucus, said that “when you sit in the Oval Office it gives you an enormous sense of possibility. It gives you an enormous sense of what can happen when people find ways to work across party lines and ideology.”

The meeting, Davis’ first private audience with Bush, raised eyebrows among some Democrats who wondered if the president was trying to win over moderate Democrats on pieces of the White House agenda. But Davis said the president did not try to sell the Democrats’ on any particular initiative but instead told them he wanted to try to work together.

The New Democratic Caucus is a group of more than 60 moderate Democrats from across the country. Davis has been co-chair since the beginning of the 109th Congress.

The congressman said Bush is actually closer to the moderate Caucus in his views than he is the right wing of the Republican Party.

Some of the issues they have agreed on include immigration. “I absolutely believe we should strengthen our border policy,” he said.

But he agrees with President Bush that there has to be a legal-status plan in place for those immigrants who have made a home here and want to raise a family in the United States, Davis said.

He said that in regards to trade agreements, he votes according to the impact the agreement will have on Alabama interests, asking “Is this the best deal we can get for Alabama’s economy?”

On appropriations, Davis said Bush has increased discretionary spending “more than Clinton.

“I happen to believe we have a responsibility to stay within the budget … We can’t afford tax cuts for the rich and be fiscally responsible.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.