Obama dines with Senate Democrats
April 17th, 2013
10:53 PM ET
1 year ago

Obama dines with Senate Democrats

Washington (CNN) – Continuing his congressional outreach, President Barack Obama met with a dozen Democratic senators Wednesday night during the middle of week in which the issues of gun control and immigration reached crucial points on the legislative agenda.

Dining at the Jefferson Hotel, Obama and the group had a “productive discussion about a range of issues,” including gun violence, immigration reform and the economy, according to a White House official.

“The President and the Senators also discussed the explosions in Boston and the president reaffirmed that the full weight of the federal government is behind this investigation, which is being led by the FBI,” the official added.

The attendees were:

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado
Senator Chris Coons of Delaware
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California
Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana
Senator Patty Murray of Washington
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island
Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
Senator Ron Wyden or Oregon

None of the Democrats who attended were among the four senators who voted against the party line Wednesday in a vote to expand the background check system to cover more firearm purchases. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted no at the last minute for procedural reasons, allowing him to bring the amendment back up at a later date.)

The meeting ran a little more than two hours and followed two high-profile dinners between Obama and Senate Republicans in recent weeks. He also met with both caucuses in both chambers last month in multiple trips to Congress.

The president’s new outreach came after criticism that the president was not socializing enough with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said last month that it was good Obama was reaching out to Republicans, but he also needed to build more relationships within his own party.

"I was very pleased to see him reach out to his colleagues on the other side, and I would hope he would reach out to us as well," he told CNN. Manchin was not among the guests Wednesday night.

Senators were tight lipped on their way out from the hotel Wednesday. When asked how the dinner went, Stabenow yelled "great" and added “very positive,” and Reed simply said "good.” Warner said it went very well, while Whitehouse literally gave it two thumbs up.

“It was a good dinner,” Bennet said. “We talked about not talking about it.”

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, meanwhile, released a statement after the meeting, saying the group talked about ways to tackle the deficit.

“It is clear to me that President Obama and Senate Democrats are united in our desire to end the constant lurching from crisis to crisis that is hurting middle class families and the economy,” she said. “We also share the hope that some Republicans will finally step out of their partisan corner and join us at the table willing to offer some compromises that will help move our country and our economy forward.”

On a warm night outside the hotel, a crowd of spectators gathered across the street throughout the evening. Joggers and bicyclists, some of whom first ignored the closed streets before being sternly turned back, were a constant presence on the crowded sidewalk across from the hotel.

While senators walked in the front door of the hotel, the president's motorcade did the short drive two blocks from the White House, past pedestrians, and entered on the side.

Hotel guests had their bags checked before being allowed to cross the street.

– CNN’s Dana Bash contributed to this report.


Filed under: President Obama • Senate
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Woman In California

    This country will have no peace or progress, until every single republican/TPer is kicked out into the streets, and for me, it can't happen too soon.

    Glad to see democrats bonding again.

    April 17, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  2. S.B. Stein

    I think it would be hard to sit at that dinner having voted no. Why was there no senator from NJ at this event?

    April 17, 2013 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  3. Catmandew

    It is good they are all gettin together and hopefully our country can start movin again. Maybe this will unite the congress and they can start to work on things and create some common sense solutions to all these problems.

    April 17, 2013 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  4. Jim

    I guess the Democrat Senators who voted to defeat the Gun Bill were not invited to dinner.

    April 17, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  5. Name lynn

    Food dont make the president change his mind about what hes going to do, its ok that the democrates an the president dines together. The presidents dines with the democrates wheres the republicans.

    April 18, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |