March 6th, 2013
11:35 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama and Republicans set to meet in the next week

(CNN) – President Barack Obama and Congressional Republicans have set a series of meetings in the coming week, a move toward direct talks with rank-and-file lawmakers that he's largely avoided in the budget feuds of the last several months.

The president invited a group of Republican senators to dinner Wednesday evening at a hotel within blocks of the White House, and has requested to attend meetings with both House and Senate Republicans next week.

The list of invitees to Wednesday's dinner, provided to CNN by a GOP source, includes some of the president's harshest critics: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, John McCain of Arizona, Dan Coats of Indiana, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Pat Toomey Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

While the president has met relatively frequently with members of the Republican leadership in the House and Senate during various budget impasses over the last months, he hasn't regularly met with rank-and-file Republicans. Aside from hammering out a compromise on reducing the federal deficit, lawmakers are weighing major immigration reform measures and gun control policies, which Obama characterized as priorities of his second term during his inauguration address.

"We need to have this dialogue," McCain said Wednesday when asked about the dinner. "I'm glad the president is doing it, I think it's very helpful we have continued discussions."

Graham, an ally of McCain's who's been a harsh critic of Obama, added "It is incumbent upon us to reach back. When he reaches out we've got to reach back."

While it was the president's idea to have dinner with Senate Republicans Wednesday night, he's not the one who put the list together, a White House official said.

This is part of a "continuing effort to reach out to Republican lawmakers" and the president in recent meetings and phone calls has been targeting "people who have expressed interest in compromise," the official added. Although the official noted that's not to say that everyone attending the dinner has signed on to all the president's ideas.

The dinner table conversation will primarily focus on fiscal matters, though the official said that other recent interactions with Republican lawmakers have included discussions on guns, immigration and energy.

The White House hopes this new outreach will lead to a grand bargain or a petite bargain, but the official said that they are "not naïve about the possibilities here."

"These are just conversations," the official continued. "Getting from there to a deal is hard."

Asked if this strategy is a shift from last week–when the White House had little communication with congressional lawmakers–the official said that it's a "change in approach" because the situation has changed. In other words, "we don't have a looming deadline," the official added.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday the president would attend the GOP weekly lunch meeting next Tuesday, the first time since May 2010 that Obama has attended a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill.

"Senate Republicans welcome the President to the Capitol," McConnell said in a statement. "And I appreciate he took my recommendation to hear from all of my members."

The White House confirmed Wednesday that Obama will also travel to Capitol Hill to meet separately with the House Republican conference, as well as Democrats from both chambers next week. A GOP aide said Obama previously met with the GOP conference in 2010 during a retreat in Baltimore.

The meetings come after a series of phone calls from Obama to Congressional leaders, made as the automatic across-the-board spending cuts took effect last weekend.

White House economic adviser Gene Sperling told CNN's Candy Crowley the president was trying to find the "bipartisan compromise that we need to get out of this."

"He's reaching out to Democrats who understand we have to make serious progress on long-term entitlement reform, and Republicans who realize if we have that type of entitlement reform, they'd be willing to have tax reform that raises revenues to lower the deficit," Sperling said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Rob Portman both said they received calls. "“I did think the conversation we had Saturday was constructive," Corker said, adding he sensed "a window of opportunity" for negotiations with the president.

Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, also said she spoke with Obama on Monday.

"I think the important thing is for the first time in a very long time, the president appears to be doing some outreach to both Republicans and Democrats and that's long overdue," she told reporters.

The latest moves reflect a shift for the president, who has been criticized for not reaching out enough to members of Congress socially in a bid to build more personal relationships.

At a White House press conference in January, Obama pushed back on the charges, saying that "most people who know me know I'm a pretty friendly guy."

"I like a good party," he continued. "And the truth is when I was in the Senate, I had great relationships over there, and up until that point that I became president this was not an accusation that you heard very frequently."

He also said some Republicans seemed wary of socializing with a Democratic president.

The president has previously said he prefers to spend as much time as possible during the evenings with his daughters to help preserve family time, including in an interview in August with Jessica Yellin, CNN's chief White House correspondent.

"Sometimes Michelle and I not doing the circuit and going out to dinners with folks is perceived as us being cool. It actually really has more with us being parents," he said.

A preview of upcoming meetings between Obama and Republican lawmakers came last week when the president sat down with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain to discuss pending immigration reform measures.

Graham, who has opposed Obama on topics ranging from national security to budgets, said it was "one of the best meetings I've ever had with the president."

"I was quite frankly encouraged," Graham told CNN. "I think we'll have presidential leadership in a very productive way on immigration reform.

McCain, Obama's rival in the 2008 presidential contest, said the immigration meeting was "excellent."

CNN's Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, Dan Lothian, Rachel Streitfeld, Kevin Bohn, Kevin Liptak, Ashley Killough and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.


Filed under: House Republicans • President Obama
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. critical thinking

    This is pretty easy. Mr President put down in writing, aka, budget the cuts, true cuts not waste and fraud and paying Doctors and Hospitals less, true cuts and reforms to Medicare and Social Security, along with a picture of how think a tax reform change might look. Do some frigin work before the meeting, be willing to stand by it and here is the most importan part of your job, LEAD.

    March 6, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    The latest moves reflect a shift for the president, who has been criticized for not reaching out enough to members of Congress socially in a bid to build more personal relationships.
    -------------
    The President has invited top Republicans to White House state dinners. They don't even bother to attend. Sen. McConnell even turned down a state dinner for when Prince Charles was in the US a couple of years ago. No wonder Romney got such a warm reception from the British last summer. They want to stay out of internal US political squabbles as much of possible, and regard state dinners as nuetral ground.

    March 6, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    critical thinking wrote:

    This is pretty easy. Mr President put down in writing, aka, budget the cuts, true cuts not waste and fraud and paying Doctors and Hospitals less, true cuts and reforms to Medicare and Social Security, along with a picture of how think a tax reform change might look. Do some frigin work before the meeting, be willing to stand by it and here is the most importan part of your job, LEAD.
    ---------------
    Does anyone in the right wing even realize that the above talking point condones waste and fraud? Time for a re-write.

    March 6, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  4. Chris

    Gee, I wonder if our 'Campaigning in Chief' will give the Republicans the same amount of time like he did last time. A whole 7 minutes. Heck, Obama spends more time than that on the golf course. No wonder nothing gets done. Obama won't allow it.

    March 6, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  5. muchthunder..little rain

    its time to start acting like someone who wants to get things done , rather than somebody who will make you pay if he does not get his way.....

    March 6, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  6. PatheticCNN

    Opinion: President Hugo Chavez was Empowering to Poor and Divisive in Venezuela Sounds Like President Obama is Following Chavez's Footsteps in America.

    March 6, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  7. fiftyfive55

    If the GOP wants a lock on the white house,all they need to do is bring jobs back home and we'll be done with the democratic welfare state and the democrats.Until that time,however,we have no choice but to vote democrat.

    March 6, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. Mike Texoma

    In the past, pleas that the president "lead" are translated as meaning that the president is not iinclined to do it the way the complainer prefers it done. We have divergent ideologies. So lets lay off the rhetoric. The hope is for progress in the way of substance. We have a bundle of problems and we have to have a methodical and reasonable progression of solutions. That requires an earnest, bipartisan, committment to finding those solutions. The president iswants to find out if that is possible.

    March 6, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. James Bond

    Some real crtical thinking, cant wait til mcconnell, boener, and graham come up for reelection, let the money train begin, they all need to be sent packing, still cant get over george gIving tax evasion advice, nothing unpatriotic about that

    March 6, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  10. plain&simple

    According to the right wing of this country Obama is the most powerful,most intimidating,most dispised person on this earth. Yet being all those things they want him to lead,then they want him to follow,then lead. The no direction republicans have to make up their minds. That is if they are capable of such a majestic feat!! It's pretty much impossible to lead a group hell bent on not wanting to follow.

    March 6, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  11. ThinkAgain: We don't have a spending problem; we have a Republican problem.

    @plain&simple: "The no direction republicans have to make up their minds."

    No, they don't have to, because their goal is to constantly harm our country, then blame the President. There is nothing President Obama could do – not cure cancer, establish peace in the Middle East, or walk on water – that the Repubs wouldn't criticize.

    Time to accept that fact, then use reconciliation and executive order to get done the will of the people – who elected President Obama TWICE, cast more votes for Democrats in the House and retained a majority in the Senate.

    PERIOD!

    March 6, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  12. James Bond

    I agree 55, but what aree the chances of that? they will not bite the hand that feeds them, and here i thought that was me. it is all to obvious where their loyalties are, we have been sold out a long time ago, and now they are trying to hold onto power by limiting the vote. what a shame, cant see the forest for the trees. its getting tough to watch, i liked it when someone asked the latino senator about the voting rights act, said he was the perfect example of why we dont need it, but could not give ananswer as to why we need to remove a law that has no negative effects, went off on some intangible, loser, cant tell the truth, act 5 is the only tthing keeping them from changing voting laws, in an attempt to control who can vote, true american values, hard at work for YOU

    March 6, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Humm,
    If Whats-his-name spouts the SOS this dinner will be a polite dud. Just think Red Buttens never got a dinner. Google it. And Ralph Cramden is still driving that bus in Brooklyn for 55 sollars a week. Now it is time the Liberals realise the country need to live within it's means. In a nutshell, Fiscal Responsibility.

    March 6, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    PatheticCNN

    Opinion: President Hugo Chavez was Empowering to Poor and Divisive in Venezuela Sounds Like President Obama is Following Chavez's Footsteps in America.
    -----------------
    Chavez was popular because he took on Venezuela's wealthy ruling elite, fighting against government sanctioned, economic apartheid.

    March 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. Woman In California

    On the surface, these meetings seem like a good idea but in reality, when you have a group of bigots who want nothing more than to see you fail and have proven beyond a doubt they won't work with you, respect you, or acknowledge you're the president, these meetings are a waste of time. Republicans just want to say "hey, we met with the president and he still won't listen to us". It's a setup to get the heat off their backs and on to his. Make no mistake about it, if Joe Biden or Bill Clinton were sitting at the table, a compromise would be reached. They will never try to help this president help the American people because they don't want him to succeed. Period. Why waste the taxpayers time with it?

    March 6, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  16. Name lynn

    Food dont make obama change his mind about hurting the poor people. The congress wants the poor people to pay for the rich people taxe an obama do see that.

    March 6, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  17. rla

    There are only two problems– THE DEBT and Jobs.. I don't think this president has the background or the ideological will to solve either. BOTH parties need to get over feeding from the trough of corporate America and the big banks!

    March 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  18. sonny chapman

    Good move. McConnell & Boehner both have their own "political" problems. Both are trying to stave off Right Wing attacks which really hampers any kind of deal making,i.e., COMPROMISE. The Repubs. outside the Power Loop may be able to make progress. The votes to do a Big Deal in Congress are there. The Repubs. just need a way around the "Hastert Rule" & the Filibuster.

    March 6, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  19. Pamela

    Ohhhhhh Dear........ Republicans???? Dinner at the White House??invited by Pres Obama??? ... DO NOT DRINK KOOLAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 6, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  20. callmecrazy

    Let me guess what's on the menu...Crow?

    March 6, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  21. Tracy

    Rudy NYC

    PatheticCNN

    Opinion: President Hugo Chavez was Empowering to Poor and Divisive in Venezuela Sounds Like President Obama is Following Chavez's Footsteps in America.
    -----–
    Chavez was popular because he took on Venezuela's wealthy ruling elite, fighting against government sanctioned, economic apartheid.
    **********************************************************************************************************
    You forgot to add to your list all the innocent people Chavez imprisoned or had murdered that disagreed with him.

    March 6, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  22. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    Wouldn't waste my time with this con artist!

    March 6, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  23. gj2001

    Double the Secret Service detail. No telling what some of those people who have desires to take 'their country' back will do.

    March 6, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  24. John

    The Left knows what the Right wants. The Right knows what the Left wants. Stop talking to each other through the media (like a high school couple who are so mature they send their friends back and forth when they refuse to speak to one another) and WORK out some middle ground. Any politician that is speaking to the media instead of to other politicians is not working on America's problems. They are campaigning.

    March 6, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    fiftyfive55 wrote:

    If the GOP wants a lock on the white house,all they need to do is bring jobs back home and we'll be done with the democratic welfare state and the democrats.Until that time,however,we have no choice but to vote democrat.
    ----------------–
    The GOP has no plans to bring back jobs. They ran on "jobs, jobs, jobs" in 2010, then switched at the end of September when Boehner and crew announced some new pledge that amounted to "cut, cut, cut." They totally ignored and reneged on their campaign slogan, "jobs, jobs, jobs". All that they really promise is "economic growth and prosperity".

    Before complailn about the "democratic welfare state", you need to review GOP spending habits when they control the White House. The Republican presidents have *always* outspent their Democratic counterparts. Bush-43 nearly doubled the size of the federal work force between 2001 and 2009. I don't have to mention his annua 7-9%l growth in deficit spending. Do I?

    March 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
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