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No sign of deals at golf summit

President Obama and Speaker John Boehner win $2 each in a round intended to foster improved relations, if not accord on the budget or federal debt.

June 19, 2011|Christi Parsons

WASHINGTON — President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner played five hours of golf together Saturday, emerging with no deals on any of their current conflicts but showing signs that relations between them are cordial.

In a bipartisan pairing, Obama and Boehner teamed up and beat Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich in a game that went down to the wire on the 18th hole, according to White House officials, who provided no further details about the level of play.

Neither side reported an alignment in positions about raising the nation's debt ceiling, an unsettled issue that could force the government to default on its obligations by early August. Republicans are pushing for more spending cuts before they vote to raise the limit.

There also was no apparent agreement over U.S. military involvement in the NATO alliance's pounding of Libya's forces in that country's conflict. Boehner and many other Republicans, as well as some congressional Democrats, have maintained that Obama has not adequately justified the U.S. role under the War Powers Act. Sunday marks 90 days since the start of U.S. airstrikes.

Obama administration officials acknowledged Saturday that there had been internal debate over the legal questions. Obama concluded last week that the effort did not violate the War Powers Act because the U.S. role, by itself, did not amount to "hostilities." His decision came after the White House rejected views offered by Pentagon and Justice Department lawyers, instead accepting recommendations by White House and State Department attorneys, the New York Times reported.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) warned Saturday of the "makings of a constitutional crisis." But White House officials said the decision followed an "ordinary and healthy" discussion among administration officials.

"It should come as no surprise that there would be some disagreements, even within an administration, regarding the application of a statute that is nearly 40 years old to a unique and evolving conflict," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Saturday.

Obama began the day with the release of his weekly radio address, devoted to Father's Day, in which he encouraged fathers to participate in their children's lives, describing the fun he has had helping to coach his daughter Sasha's basketball team this year.

Shortly after 9 a.m., Obama headed for the golf course at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where he and Boehner played 18 holes with Biden and Kasich.

At one point, during the afternoon, cameras caught the president patting the Republican speaker on the back. Obama and Boehner each won $2 on the game, then retired to the patio of the clubhouse for a cold drink and a little coverage of the U.S. Open taking place just up the road.

Such was the level of comity that the political handlers even allowed a pool of journalists to watch the foursome on the green of the first hole.

Obama and Boehner both made par, with no one taking -- or, perhaps, offering -- a gentlemanly "gimme" putt for a ball close to the hole.

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