Pass the salt: GOP senators dine with Obama
April 10th, 2013
09:30 PM ET
2 years ago

Pass the salt: GOP senators dine with Obama

(CNN) - On a day with gun control and the federal budget in the spotlight, President Barack Obama continued his congressional outreach at dinner with a dozen Senate Republicans in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House.

Wednesday's event marked Obama's second dinner meeting with Senate Republicans in a little more than a month, though the guest list was different from the last meet-up. Senators began arriving at the White House around 6:45 p.m., and a White House official said the dinner ended at 9:17 p.m.

"Tonight, the President enjoyed a constructive, wide-ranging discussion with Republican Senators that included reducing the deficit in a balanced way, reforming our broken immigration system and adopting common-sense measures to reduce gun violence," the official said.

Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia was asked to arrange the 12 invitations.

"The bulk of the conversation was driven by the members the president allowed to come. Most of the conversation was about debt, deficit, our growing national debt, our fiscal policy and reforming entitlements," Isakson said Thursday on CNN's "Starting Point."

"It was a very meaningful three-hour discussion," he continued. "A free flow exchange of ideas from both sides."

Aside from Isakson, the Republican senators attending dinner at the White House Wednesday were Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Boozman of Arkansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, John Thune of South Dakota, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

While Obama dined with a dozen senators at an upscale Washington restaurant in March, the dinner this time took place at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The White House official said the group ate a green salad, steak and sautéed vegetables.

"The President thanked Sen. Iskason for bringing the group together and was pleased to host the Senators for dinner tonight and looks forward to continuing bipartisan conversations in the weeks and months ahead," the official continued.

"I commend the president for reaching out to us, as it is critically important that we communicate directly in order to find common ground," Isakson said in his statement. "It's the only way that we can find solutions that are right for America - not just a win for the president or a win for Republicans. I hope we can continue the conversation from tonight."

Senator Hatch’s office declined to discuss details of the private dinner, but described the gathering as “wide-ranging, and open discussion on a whole range of issues from entitlements to tax reform.”

“Senator Hatch greatly appreciated the president having him and a group of his Republican colleagues over to dinner this evening at the White House,” Hatch’s office said.

Last month's dinner was described by different attendees as "honest," "interactive," and "cordial"–and signaled a shift in approach by the chief executive to cultivate alliances with rivals who have stood opposed to his policy proposals.

Tension between the White House and Capitol Hill remain high as Congress faces three major legislative battles on gun control, immigration and fiscal issues in the coming months.

Obama announced his budget plan earlier Wednesday, a $3.77 trillion proposal for 2014 that would cut deficits by $1.8 trillion over the next decade.

Asked if the president plans to talk about gun control at the dinner–an issue that reached a new height Wednesday when lawmakers reached a bipartisan compromise proposal on background checks–Carney said "there's no script" for the dinner but the topic will likely come up.

"I don't think the president will be shy about expressing his views on this matter," he said. "It will certainly be something the President wants to discuss."


Filed under: President Obama • Senate • White House
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Alan

    Rubio won't show because he's an obstructionist and the only way to keep someone like himself from torpedoing dinner is if he was the 'main course' like being on a platter with an apple in his mouth. Cruz and Paul would kill their 'wanna be' status in a second if they showed up because they value appearences over substantive behavior and believe, like Sarah Palin probably still does, that they have a chance at becoming president with their anti government rhetoric.

    The positive side of these 3 not showing up is that Obama won't have to pass out pepto bismal tablets for the indigestion their negative rhetoric would cause.

    April 10, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  2. Larry in Houston

    Guess 'ol Ashley got scared, or something – wish 'ol Mitch would have a contender – but doubt it will happen – he's got another year or so, then all he's got to do is the same thing the other "lifers" in congress does, to get re-elected. Put your name & pic on all the billboards in every part of the state / keep ads going in every newspaper / T.V. / radio ads & the list goes on. Tell the people what they want to hear, to get re-elected. Amazing, isn't it ? Yep, Just tell the voters that you're going to build new libraries, new roads / & everything else that you know of, where somebody is complaining about, in their state. Heck, you may end up getting money from an "earmark" to feed the deer in every state park, including the birds.

    April 10, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  3. Larry in Houston

    Guess 'ol Ashley got scared, or something – wish 'ol Mitch would have a contender – but doubt it will happen – he's got another year or so, then all he's got to do is the same thing the other "lifers" in congress does, to get re-elected. Put your name & pic on all the billboards in every part of the state / keep ads going in every newspaper / T.V. / radio ads & the list goes on. Tell the people what they want to hear, to get re-elected. Amazing, isn't it ? Yep, Just tell the voters that you're going to build new libraries, new roads / & everything else that you know of, where somebody is complaining about, in their state. Heck, you may end up getting money from an "earmark" to feed the deer in every state park, including the birds. . .

    April 10, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. Guest

    Often numbers are manipulated to lie, politicans do this well on both sides. History doesnt lie however, and a quick look at history shows that the taxes oblabla wants have the opposite effect of a thriving economy. See Forbes and stop your ignorant rants, they're not even entertaining anymore. How's that call center job working out for you in paying off those law school loans? Socialist welfare states FAIL!

    April 10, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Sniffit, the President has nothing to do with marriage equality. It is in the hands of California who sued and the Supreme Court. Exactly where was his involvement in this issue? How will the President reduce net illegal immigration to zero? Immigration reform is also in the hands of Congress. His job is simply to sign the bill if it ever passes. You talk about his accomplishments in the past tense. Then list what he has yet to do."

    With respect to marriage equality, the POTUS refused to enforce or defend DOMA, a blatantly unconsitituional pece of trash legislation representing one of the last gasps of homophobe bigotry in our legislature. Moreover, it's no mere coincidence that his announcement of support for gay marriage was followed by major shifting in support for it in the minority community....he lead and they followed because he's trusted and admired. As for illegal immigration, he has placed more troops and tech on the border than has ever been there in the country's history and has set new records every year for the number of deportations he's accomplished. Although the recession and lack of job availability also plays a role in slowing illegal immigration, the additioanl security and the deportations have a direct effect on the numbers as well. Really, you should quit while you're ahead. At this point you just look underinformed, which is really a win for a GOPer/Teatroll. Going further will just make you look like you're denying objective reality and quite unhinged, which is the usual impression GOPers/Teatrolls give and not so much of a win.

    April 10, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
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