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. Insight

    Sequester forced many waiters out of job and Senetors have to serve themselves for dinner.

    March 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  2. Name lynn

    Obama will meet any day with the congress that dont mean he will agree with the congress, white house leaders. an republicans.

    March 6, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. Alive and well

    BHO is beyond help !

    March 6, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  4. Bolaji09

    Get the long fork!

    March 6, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  5. mary

    I hope he makes them pay their own tab

    March 6, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. Smith111

    Hope they dont drink the Kool-Aid.

    March 6, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  7. JiminNM

    Why would anyone have dinner with a person posing as the President, a person clearly ineligible for the office, a person obviously bullying the Court and the people of America at the direction of the international bankers intent on plundering the world?

    March 6, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. TomGI

    It figures, cuts cuts cuts everywhere but no problem pulling together a catered dinner at taxpayers expense. Probably Angus prime rib or seared Ahi Tuna and of course creme brulee with exotic fruits for dessert. And gourmet wines from the top California wine producers.

    March 6, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. v_mag

    I'd hate to be the President and have nothing to look forward to but obstruction every day on every issue for the next 4 years. They won't back his programs, his budgets, his appointees, his foreign policy, his tax proposals. And they won't propose anything to help the economy. Congress is useless. Obama won, but Congress refuses to work with him. Every obstinate Republican deserves impeachment for failure to live up to the oath s/he took.

    I would call a meeting with them every week and just give them hell.

    March 6, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. NoThanks

    I would refuse to eat at the same table with Obama... Keep your lies and BS away from my food.

    March 6, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  11. PatsOMac

    Spending cuts?? Why doesn't EVERYONE in govt. take a salary cut starting at the top and stop frivolous spending like golfing with Tiger Woods which that golf weekend would have saved over 300 employees from being forced to take time off, or even 40+ days of vacation.

    Freakin hypocrite.

    March 6, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. aCriticalEye

    Well the GOP/Tea Nuts got 98% of what they wanted from this sequester. Now will they PLEASE..... work with the president !

    March 6, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. dd

    Email releases show that the Obama Administration has ordered a policy to maximize PAIN to the people as government groups plan their response to sequester cuts. Yes, Obama is ordering that the people be screwed by sequester, which was his plan. Why? Is Obama really Osama? Or is Obama just a corrupt Chicago Democrat who hates the world?

    March 6, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  14. pcChicago

    Heard about this dinner on the am news shows, EXCEPT it might get cancelled because reps going home before the storm. Is anyone else tired of this going home (both Republicans and Democrats) all the time. They say they do it to "keep in touch" with their districts. They don't need to stay in touch (really it's campaign and raise money) every weekend. Didn't they all just go home for a too-long Presidents Day break? It would help our nation's problems if they earned their salaries and COULDN'T go home until agreement was reached and work was done. Last time I checked, that's what the rest of us have to do in our jobs.

    March 6, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  15. BunLuv

    Can't they just meet in a conference room at the White House.............why spend $$$$$$ for a hotel dinner when costs are trying to be cut..............makes me crazy

    March 6, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  16. Josh

    Wow, I have to say this is one of the best ideas out of the Whitehouse, either Republican or Democrat, I have seen in many years. I sure hope it leads to success in restoring the art of compromise into our Federal government.

    March 6, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. CosmicC

    Compromise is an essential part of our system. What we saw for Obama's first term was Democrats moving a couple of feet towards the center, perhaps not enough, but the Republicans refused to move at all. They have not changed. They cannot expect the Democrats to continue to yield without anything given back in return. We need to raise taxes AND cut spending to fix the economy.

    March 6, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. jpmichigan

    It isn't Congress that useless, it the governing of this administration that's useless. Obama can but won't move around the spending cut, as to not hurt the American TAXPAYER. He is on his usual mission to raise more taxes on the wealthy and then next the middle class. He flies around wasting government money to sell his point of view with all the gloom and doom passible. Telling his cabinet to do the same, according to e-mail that surfaced. Liar, liar pants on fire, chicken are home to roust!

    March 6, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. Rob

    If I were the Republicans, since Obama is trying to destroy the party, I would have a food tester with me. One who doesn't mind taking one for the team.

    March 6, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  20. EDGY

    If he's late to dinner, they better start listening for sounds of small model-like airplanes.....

    March 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. dnokc

    I'm certain Mr. President would be having crow served. If he could just find the chef & servants who were furloughed.

    March 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  22. freedom

    He is doing it for show – just to say he tried to meet with Republicans. He has no intention of changing his agenda – destruction of the USA as we know it.

    March 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  23. Lib

    This sounds great and I hope it is very productive. The country needs to see our leaders come together and I feel it will have a possitve effect on Americans. It seems when there is turbulance in Washington the whole country is affected. Our leaders set the tone for this country and we need to try and get along even with our differences. I don't feel the president has cold shouldered anyone. He has young children and I admire their family values.

    March 6, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  24. Marko

    It sounds like a divide and conquer move... I don't trust anything a Chicago style politician pulls... Watch your back.

    March 6, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    BunLuv

    Can't they just meet in a conference room at the White House.............why spend $$$$$$ for a hotel dinner when costs are trying to be cut..............makes me crazy
    ----------–
    Blame the extreme right wing. They don't want to be photographed anywhere near the White House, at least not under these circumstances. Pres. Obama's invitation is win-win. He wins if Republicans refuse to attend. He wins if Republicans show up because they will know it will be a photo op as they come and go. They will have to look contrite. Arrogance and confidence is not going to cut it, when you have a reputation as being the party of "no compromise."

    March 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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