Don't expect any fireworks from Senators John McCain and Barak Obama this afternoon when the two men share a table to testify before a Senate committee on lobbying reform. Two days after McCain launched a strongly worded and blatantly sarcastic letter (.PDF link) accusing Obama of pulling out of bipartisan reform discussions, the senators finally talked and have agreed to put the matter behind them. "We had a nice discussion," McCain said. "We're moving on."
After talking with both senators, it appears that under the highly charged partisan atmosphere of the senate, McCain inferred something Obama never explicitly said, while Obama wasn't as precise as he could have been in his criticism.
Last week, Obama sent McCain a letter (.PDF link) following up on a bipartisan lobbying reform meeting the men attended -- a working group of sorts. In his letter to McCain, Obama expressed his reluctance "in creating a task force to further study and discuss" the matter before it went to a committee for consideration, fearing it would delay any legislative action. Obama said he and his caucus "believe the more effective and timely course" is to allow the process to go directly to the committees to "ensure that these issues are discussed in a public forum."
McCain interpreted Obama's resistance of a "task force" to mean the working group he'd just joined with Obama. But Obama says he was talking about another task force, not McCain's working group. "The only intention of the letter was to say that [Majority Leader] Bill Frist's original proposal for a task force would be too slow," Obama said yesterday. "John misunderstood the intention of the letter. I never had any interest in not having conversations with [McCain's] working group. That's why I went to the first one."
McCain then assumed that Obama was pulling out of the bipartisan talks altogether, even though Obama didn't explicitly say it in his letter. "That's the way I read it," McCain said. He also said that if Obama was talking about a Frist proposal, "then the letter should have been addressed to Senator Frist."
This episode is the first public political skirmish for the freshman Senator from Illinois who says he's absolutely committed to working in a bipartisan fashion on reforming Washington. "John McCain's been an American hero and he's served here in Washington for 20 years. So if he wants to get cranky once in a while, that's his prerogative," Obama said.