(CNN) - Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was late for dinner with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, but she told a news outlet she had a fair excuse.
And, according to the report in Politico, the president agreed.
"I was 45 minutes late for dinner with the president of the United States. Everybody was seated when I got there, because I spent time talking to the parents and the family members of those who were killed at Newtown," she said in a phone call with a Politico reporter Friday afternoon, according to the outlet.
"And I said to the president when I made my profuse apologies, that the reason I was late is I was meeting with the Newtown families. He said, 'I understand. You made the right call. Don't worry about it.' They're already through the first course. They were finishing the salad course."
The salad was first on the menu at the two-and-a-half hour long dinner, according to a White House official, who said the group discussed "reducing the deficit in a balanced way, reforming our broken immigration system and adopting common-sense measures to reduce gun violence."
Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia coordinated the invitations and said on CNN's "Starting Point," "most of the conversation was about debt, deficit, our growing national debt, our fiscal policy and reforming entitlements."
Also at the dinner were Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Boozman of Arkansas, 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.
This dinner at the White House came after Obama took a different group of GOP senators out to dinner at a D.C. restaurant amid what some branded his "charm offensive" with Republican lawmakers.
Several families connected to the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, traveled to Washington earlier this week with Obama aboard Air Force One after he spoke on gun violence in Hartford, Connecticut.
The 12 family members were set to meet with lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill this week pushing for universal background checks, restrictions on high-capacity gun magazines and anti-gun trafficking measures.
Collins told Politico by phone that her "heart grieves for those families" and that three handed her photos of their relatives who were killed in the shooting. She put those photos on her desk, she said.
But her lateness was prompted by their late arrival for a meeting with her.
"The Newtown families were very late for their meeting with me," she said, according to Politico.
"I felt a moral obligation to talk with them,” she said. “I kept the president of the United States waiting. I mean, how rude is that of me?
"They thanked me for being willing to vote for cloture, to proceed to the bill," she said. "And mainly I listened to them, talking about their terrible losses."
- CNN's Gregory Wallace, Kevin Liptak, Ashley Killough and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report