Obama reaches out to Senate Democrats
March 12th, 2013
06:50 PM ET
2 years ago

Obama reaches out to Senate Democrats

Washington (CNN) – When President Barack Obama attended the first of four meetings on Capitol Hill this week, it was clear that many of the Senate Democrats he lunched with wanted to bend his ear.

"There were quite a bit of questions, he stayed for a long time," Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said about the meeting that was scheduled for 60 minutes but went for about 90. "Sen. (Majority Leader Harry) Reid gave him ample opportunity to leave and he decided to stay and answer more questions."

In fact, the president took about a dozen questions from senators and discussed a wide range of issues, including the budget, entitlement reform, foreign policy, immigration, guns and drones.

While the president's efforts this week to reach out to lawmakers is largely aimed at Republicans, several Democratic senators have acknowledged privately that they are frustrated the president doesn't have stronger relationships with them.

"I'm very impressed with the tone that I'm hearing today," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, moments after the meeting ended. "And maybe I think he realized that we've got to work together."

It may sound odd to hear a Democrat talking about working together with a Democratic president, but that's a sentiment among many senators who feel shut out or ignored by the White House. After the meeting, some of those same senators said, based on the president's presentation, it was clear he understood he needed to improve relations with them.

Obama will meet Wednesday with House Republicans; on Thursday he'll meet separately with House Democrats and Senate Republicans.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she hopes these meetings will lead to direct talks with the president on the thorny budget issues confronting the country.

"I think this initial overture is very welcome. but it needs to be followed up with concrete working sessions that extend many hours, where we're all locked in a room, occasionally thrown something to eat, until we reach agreement on some of the very big issues facing us," she said.

One difficult issue is whether Democrats are willing to compromise on entitlement reform. "The president was pretty clear that we have to have these programs sustainable and it's reasonable to look at them," Cardin said.

The president told the Democrats that his recent outreach to Senate Republicans – including a private dinner at a fancy hotel last week – was positive. But he also said Republicans need to be more willing to compromise.

"He says working together with Republicans in terms of getting a grand bargain or a major dent in this issue is critically important," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, about a deal to reduce the deficit. "But compromise is essential and he hasn't seen enough from them yet but he is also going to keep on trying."

While serious subjects dominated the meeting, the president did win laughter after he playfully grabbed Reid's notes and made fun of the doodles drawn on them. The president joked that he wanted to send them to a psychiatrist for analysis.


Filed under: President Obama • Senate Democrats
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Catmandew

    Let's send the President along with them he needs evaluation too! Maybe then we will be able to figure out what to do to get him to do his job for US taxpayers.

    March 12, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  2. antibarry

    So, president Barry is doing a lot of "reaching" lately. Hmmm, me thinks Americans are catching on to Barry's agenda. :-)

    March 12, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  3. Pete

    So Pres.Obama is being questioned by democrates about what to expect from republican senators and he said the norm obstructionism ,what do you all expect roses!!And even lunch with vultures is only temperary right and after done they'll go at it one more time for good measure won't they...Even after this sequester deal with the ignorent republicans after voting almost unanimously for it in both houses basicly hanging themselves politically and now Ryan going back again to a failed subject of theirs in repealing the ACA bill that couldn't be done over 32 times and finally agreed as constitutional you'd think they'd come up with a different stratigy but no they're not that smart are they..So republicans said let's go back and do what we're good at and that is obstructing,alienating anything this president comes up with because our party of republicans is a real mess and Pres.Obama and democrates better not know that ok!!But as Boehner says after another drink it'll be all over soon men right after midterms so make your last months here as comfortable as you can and relish it because after this we're all going home!!

    March 12, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  4. jpmichigan

    Compromise is a two way street, and I have yet to see the Democrats give an inch. They are all talk but no action. 4 years without a budget, 4 years of breaking the law. Bills sent over by the House, shot down with no debate. Republicans in the House have presented several budgets and spending cut bill, Mr. Reid and the White House as quick as they can nix them without debate.

    March 12, 2013 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  5. mikle

    He is not my president and never will.j

    March 12, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  6. Carl

    Don't you just hate him?

    March 12, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  7. Al

    Why should Obama not be smiling, the sequester does not affect him, he'll still be flying around in Air Force 1 and the tax payers are forced to pay for the waste of fuel. His spending plan is on hold, nothing is really happening money will just be moved from one year to this year, and that is where the problem is. If the spend were to be suspended at the time a new Congress is put in place just like the cuts that previous Congress have put in place are not honored by the next Congress. That needs to stop.

    March 12, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  8. Jack33

    Here's hoping democrats & the USA continue to utterly reject republican policies & ideology. They are a dying Party with nothing to offer to anyone other than the $4000/hr class, and will eventually disappear when such people realize republicans can no longer get any bills passed for them.
    When the funding dies, republicans die. Good riddance.

    March 12, 2013 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  9. Larry L

    The President remains the "adult in the room". We have hate-mongers, greedy vulture capitalists, fundamentalists Christians, and fearful bigots on the right-wing. On the far-left we have naive, bleeding heart, tree-hugging, liberals and those who want a free ride for every aspect of their lives. The President bridges the gap in spite of the obstructionists who work to prevent progress in America.

    March 12, 2013 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  10. Kenman

    All this press about his meeting for 90 minutes, when he didn't discuss jobs or the economy AGAIN!

    For someone who said it's the first thing he thinks of when he wakes up and the last thing he thinks about before he goes to sleep, he doesn't spend much conscious time WORKING on it!

    For our celebrity-in-chief, our community organizer in the Oval Office, it's all just a (deserved) royal appointment and he just has to keep the masses ignorant and dependent.

    March 13, 2013 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  11. impact0900

    Sounds like a sellout in progress.

    March 13, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |