President Bush opened bipartisan talks Tuesday with congressional leaders, who accepted his "offered hand" and gave him high marks for his early efforts to make political peace.
"I hope the sweetness and light will last a long time," Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif., assistant Senate majority leader, said after the hourlong meeting with the president.Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle met with 19 members of the House and Senate leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House and, according to the lawmakers, offered little in the way of specifics but much in the way of friendship.
And although Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., called it a "no-agenda meeting," leaders of both parties said they were pleased with Bush's openness and willingness to deal with both parties in Congress.
According to participants, House Minority Leader Robert Michel, R-Ill., told Bush he was the first president in memory whose first contact with Congress had been with a bipartisan group, rather than members of his own party.
"It's clear the president is a man interested in achieving honest accommodation whenever he could" and "go the extra distance" to reach compromises with Congress' Democratic majority, Sen. Alan Dixon, D-Ill., told reporters after the session.
According to those present at the meeting, Bush did not express any views but went around the table allowing each of the lawmakers to speak.
Bush did talk about desiring to meet separately with congressional banking leaders to discuss the nation's savings and loan crisis.
He also brought up Central America and discussed his telephone conversation Monday with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, participants said.
Tuesday's meeting "showed that everybody wants to cooperate, that there is this understanding," said Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I.
Democrats said they still expected major arguments with the president, particularly over Central America and budget policy.
"There have always been differences between Congresses and presidents. That's the nature of the system," Cranston said.
The congressional leaders told reporters the word "taxes" was not mentioned once in the conversations with Bush.
The lawmakers also presented Bush with a jar of pork rinds and a bottle of hot sauce.