President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner teed off on Saturday, hitting the golf course together for the first time with more in play than just bragging rights.
(RELATED: Pictures from Saturday's Golf Outing)
With a fierce debate over the debt ceiling looming, Obama and Boehner, who teamed up to beat Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, no doubt came prepared for more than just 18 holes of golf at Andrews Air Force Base. And even if the president and speaker did not come to an agreement on the debt ceiling issue—not many expected that to happen on Saturday—the day was surely one of political preparation and building of personal rapport.
On the course, in near-perfect weather conditions for golf, the president and speaker won the match on the 18th hole, according to a White House official. Details from the match were scant, but Obama and Boehner each won $2 and ended the day with cold drinks, a visit with service members on the clubhouse patio and U.S. Open coverage on the TV.
At the first hole, each shot par. Boehner hit a nice approach shot and hit a short putt. Obama crouched to line up his putt but missed the 12-foot shot then tapped in. Kasich missed a 30-foot putt but made par, and Biden bogeyed on the par-5 first hole. The group wrapped up before 3 p.m.
Boehner accepted the president's invitation to play golf as a political debate swirled over the budget and debt ceiling. The politics of the outing are this: The debt ceiling will be reached on Aug. 2, and if it is not raised, warn economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the economic implications for the U.S. will be dire. Republicans argue that to raise the ceiling without cutting the budget is irresponsible, and some in the GOP argue, on principle, against raising the limit at all. The president is on record in favor of raising the debt ceiling, but neither Obama nor Boehner has detailed his position yet.
(RELATED: Pictures—Presidents on the Golf Course)
The political implications of the debt ceiling debate are high: the president is entering a reelection campaign with high unemployment and low economic growth, in the 2.5-percent range, tough obstacles to overcome. The Republicans risk losing the momentum—and congressional seats—they picked up in 2010 if they withhold support for raising the debt ceiling and the U.S. credit rating tanks.
Earlier this year, Obama and Boehner reached an 11th-hour agreement on the 2011 budget to avoid a government shutdown, and the conventional wisdom is that the debate on the debt ceiling will go until the last minute as well. What remains unclear is how the president and speak will be able close the gap on their respective positions.
Back on the course, Obama and Boehner boarded the same cart after the first hole. Obama patted Boehner on the back before, and they rode to the next hole together.