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Obama shifts Republican outreach strategy


Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told Andrea Mitchell Reports guest host Chris Cillizza on Wednesday that President Obama’s decision to meet with Senate Republican members over dinner is a more broad approach to bipartisan outreach he has attempted to make headway with "all along."

Van Hollen explained that during Obama’s tenure most of his “outreach has been to the House Republican leadership,” but since House Speaker John Boehner expressed his disinterest in participating in any one-on-one meetings with the president down the line, he is now “is reaching out to other folks within the Republican caucuses in both the House and the Senate.”

“It makes a lot of sense,” Van Hollen said. “I do hope that as a result of this, we’ll finally be able to come up with a balanced approach. We still have a long way to go but there are certain things that are aligning that could produce that result.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday joined the list of Republican leaders dissatisfied with Obama's across-the-aisle outreach efforts, but Van Hollen said the Senate minority leader's issues with the president did not have substance. Van Hollen said “the president has done enough outreach” to both Republicans and Democrats alike. He also mentioned the harsh environment in Washington, D.C. as a factor for the lack of compromise.

“I think that the president deserves great credit for saying that he’s going to reach out to every member of Congress,” Van Hollen said. “It just shows that he’s absolutely determined to try and get something done, break through the dysfunction and get a compromise.”

Van Hollen went on to talk about the upcoming 2014 midterm elections and how the results may impact the president’s legacy. Cillizza questioned whether a big Democratic win in the midterms would solidify Obama’s legacy or if it was still too early to tell.

Van Hollen expressed that Obama isn’t worried about his legacy at the moment but rather accomplishing the agenda he ran on in the 2012 presidential election, saying his “number one priority is to follow through on the promises and commitments he  made.”

“Right now he’s reaching out to Republicans and saying, 'look I want to compromise with you,' but it’s also important to have backup plan for people to know that his number on priority is to meet those commitments he made to the middle class in this country,” he said. “It’s to make sure we strengthen the middle class; to make sure we keep our commitment to seniors ; to make sure we invest in our future."

Van Hollen made it clear that although the president is willing to work with Republicans he must have a plan b to make sure he follows through on his commitments.