BALTIMORE — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, lived a dream of many conservatives on Friday. As national TV cameras focused on him, he accused President Barack Obama face to face of breaking a long list of promises — and griped about Obama calling Republicans obstructionists.
"I can look you in the eye and tell you we have not been obstructionists. The Democrats have the House, the Senate and presidency," Chaffetz told Obama as he took a few questions from Republicans after a speech to them at their policy retreat.
The House freshman then rattled off a long list of what he said are apparent broken promises that he asked the president to address.
"You said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN. You didn't," he said. "You said you weren't going to allow lobbyists in the senior-most positions within your administration. Yet you did."
Chaffetz was just warming up. "You said you would go line-by-line through the health care bill. There were six of us … who sent you a letter and said we would like to take you up on that offer. We'd like to come. We never got a letter. We never got a call." But he said Obama claimed Republicans would not work with him on health care reform.
"When you said in the House of Representatives that you were going to tackle earmarks … I jumped up out of my seat and applauded you. But it didn't happen."
Obama interrupted, saying, "That was a long list, so let me respond."
He said much of the health care debate was televised on C-SPAN through its coverage of congressional hearings and mark-ups of bills. "What is true, no doubt about it," Obama said, was that meetings around the Capitol on final compromises were not televised.
"That was a messy process. And I take responsibility for not having structured it in a way where it was all taking place in one place where it could be filmed," Obama said.
He also said he had largely kept promises to keep lobbyists off of government boards, but some exceptions were made for carryover members and a few experts whose experience was needed. Obama asserted that no earmarks were included in the stimulus package he pushed.
Obama then gave Chaffetz a challenge. "The challenge I guess I would have for you as a freshman is: What are you doing inside your caucus to make sure I'm not the only guy who is responsible for this stuff, so that we are working together?"
Later, as Obama was taking other questions, he pointed at Chaffetz again and said if he and other Republicans have ideas, he wants to hear them and hopes to work together.
After the questioning, Chaffetz approached Obama and they talked a bit further.
"I told him, 'I want to work with you and not just take pot shots,' " Chaffetz told the Deseret News. "I thanked him for coming to talk to us without a teleprompter, and for taking our questions."
Chaffetz said, "He thanked me and gave me a nice compliment saying that his legislative director had told him I was someone that they could work with."
Chaffetz said he was thrilled, as a freshman, to be able to address the president directly and do it on national TV. "That's not something that happens every day. It was an honor to do it, and I'm glad that leadership called on me" to ask a question, he said.
"I think it is positive that we are able to have this kind of dialogue and hopefully move forward," Chaffetz said.
As he told the president at the beginning of his comments, Chaffetz said, "I'm one of 22 House freshmen. We didn't create this mess, but we are here to help clean it up."
This story was reported from Salt Lake City.
New senator in Massachusetts is Obama's relative
BOSTON (AP) — It was bad enough that President Barack Obama lost his filibuster-proof margin in the U.S. Senate to a Republican. Now it turns out he also lost it to a relative.
Obama and the newly elected senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, are 10th cousins.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society said Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and Brown's mother, Judith Ann Rugg, both descend from Richard Singletary of Haverhill, Mass. He died in 1687 at the unheard-of, for the time, age of 102.