(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.
I hope they test their food before eating!
Let's see if they are going to show up for dinner. Republicans normally do not accept his invitations.
Well the 'TAX THE RICH' leftist got what he wanted in January now he want's to TAX EVERYONE more!
NEWS FACT:"Tax bills for rich families at 30-year high!" Mar 3, 8:59 AM (ET) By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER!
I'M NOT RICH! And I am now paying in excess of $200 -MORE- a month with OBAMACARE and TAX -INCREASES-!!!
I would bet that MOST of you are doing the same!
CUT SPENDING! CUT ENTITLEMENTS!
Beware of 'Husseins' -appearing- to bear gifts! It's just another ruse to try and TAX more.
Only yellow dog democrats actually believe what he says.
President Obama denied the capability to direct cuts that would have the least impact on Americans. Undeniable proof that his political agenda is more important than the welfare of Americans...truly disgusting. No wonder there is a "deficit of trust" between Americans and their government.
Great, we have a sequester and Obama decides the best forum is dinner at an expensive DC restaurant after hours. How much will this cost taxpayers? Seems to me a meeting in a conference room during regular business hours would be much more productive and economical. Oh, thats right, Obama spends on himself like there is no tomorrow, while pandering on the 'impact of sequester' to the common man. DC at its finest.
As cheesy as the GOP congressional leadership is, POTUS should just serve them some macaroni.
Democrats win – Republicans rule.
Breaking bread will not change much.
Coup-by-filibuster will still stand.
More Politics from Obama, trying to deceive the American public. If he was truly serious he would have had all leaders at Camp David months ago and hammered out a deal. Our President is all propaganda and no substance.
You have to love all the comments on here stating Obama should make the Reps pay the tab...how about they pick up the tab for everyone else since we are in the spending mood and this government is giving more food stamps and welfare than any other!
Reading the title of this article made me think it's like how vampires invite humans to dinner.
hey, its a step
we all know if SS, medicaid are not changed there will be nothing in 20 years. I would even say set time limits on foodstamps and other programs. Something like 4 years out of every 7 (anyone can be retrained in a four year span for a new job). People becoming life long recieptants of welfare and foodstamps should not be happening. Coperate tax loopholes must be closed also; when GM makes 6 billion in profits and pays zero in taxes things need to change.
Hmm...Why does this call to mind that pie that someone baked in The Help?
I hope EVERYBODY gets a big serving of Humble Pie.
A photo opportunity – that's all. I guess we (tax payers) paying for this dinner yet I am eating no fancy dinner every night.
Why not a beer in the garden, that worked out well when he stuck his nose in.
ByeByeUSA – I love your comment – it made my day!
To Much Spending. You have hit the nail on the head ! Of course working during business hours would not have given him the opportunity to "tell the world" of the meeting.
After this dinner, watch very closely to John McCain and Lindsey Graham reactions.
Nothing will change. They will NOT give the president an inch. JUST WATCH!
Hey Guys, lets have an incredibly overpriced fancy dinner and spend thousands of dollars of the taxpayer's money. We can eat, drink and be merry while the rest of the country is going down the toilet.
Republican, Democrat, you're all a bunch of incredible scumbags and thieves who commit treason every single day of the year taking corporate bribes to put their interests ahead of the country's and the people. Not a single one of you cares what happens to the USA as long as your bank accounts are ever fattened by the corporations.
WOW! That last comment of mine ACTUALLY showed up. BUT (I have seen this before) it will probably NOT stay!
It is absolutely amazing how all these repubs think this is political and all the nasty comments. But they are probably the same people who constantly complain that the president never extends his hand to the GOP. They are the ones who will complain regardless of what he does. They are the repub hypocrites and will never change!
Positive – a meeting that is long overdue between elected leaders who have all grown far too comfortable living anywhere but mainstreet. When did Lincoln's view of government as "of the people, by the people, and for the people" become a countryclub that can only meet and eat at venues the 'mainstreet' constituents would never think of – oh, unless, it is because we actually have a fiscal conscience. Suggestion ... change the current usage of the acronymn POTUS to reflect the real strength of our nation – the "People Of The United States" (POTUS)
What I can get from all these posts, He's dammed if does and dammed if he dosen't.
Carlos- look at the largeest recipients of welfare- red states. Their ledership says they are against it but have no problem allowing their constituents from benefiting from it.
Tim- congress has not sent a bill to be vetoed to Obama. The ball is in their court. You cannot return a serve never made.
Let's see if they are going to show up for dinner. Republicans normally do not accept his invitations.
I bet they show, it's a free dinner!