President Obama is breaking bread—and slicing steak—with Republicans.
The commander in chief on Wednesday night hosted a nearly three-hour dinner at the White House with 12 Republican senators to talk about reducing the nation’s deficit, reforming the country’s immigration system and reducing gun violence.
The dinner was organized by Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson at Obama’s request.
The meal came the same day Obama revealed his $3.8 trillion budget for 2014. Despite the spending plan including social safety net changes aimed at satisfying the GOP, it has been criticized by those in the party and some Democrats as well.
“It’s not a serious plan, for the most part just another left-wing wish list,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Isakson, in a statement, called the dinner with Obama “very productive.” He added “I commend the president for reaching out to us, as it is critically important that we communicate directly in order to find common ground. It’s the only way that we can find solutions that are right for America…I hope we can continue the conversation from tonight.”
On Thursday, msnbc’s Chris Cillizza – guest host for Andrea Mitchell Reports – noted some on the right are saying the dinner is “too little, too late,” arguing Obama spent 2012 “demonizing” the Republican point of view. Isakson dismissed the criticism.
“I think [Obama is] hoping he can find a way to have a dialogue that can get us to some point in time where we can make some agreement on some of these big problems. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. So I think it’s a sincere effort,” Isacson told Cillizza.
Also in attendance were Susan Collins of Maine, 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.
Of the 12 Republican participants, just three voted in favor of kicking off debate on gun control legislation authored by Democrats on Thursday, including Isakson, Collins and Alexander. A group of 14 GOP senators had threatened they would filibuster the move, including a number at the dinner (Rubio, Roberts, Crapo and Enzi).
Hatch’s spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier described the meeting as “wide-ranging,” and was on a “whole range of issues from entitlements to tax reform.” She added while lawmaker wants to leave the specifics of the discussion as private, Hatch was “very pleased at the opportunity” to chat with the president.
The menu consisted of a green salad, steak and sautéed vegetables.
This is the second dinner Obama has hosted this year with GOP senators.