Pass the salt: GOP senators dine with Obama
President also dined with Senate Republicans in March
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.
"Our dinner with President Obama tonight was very productive," Isakson said in a statement following the dinner Wednesday. "We discussed the debt, deficits and fiscal challenges facing our country. Sitting down to talk about how to get our arms around our debt is a good first step to what I hope will be an ongoing discussion and a path forward to solving our nation's problems."
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."
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