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GOP senator diners press Obama for more outreach

North Dakota Sen.

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, who was among the 12 Republican senators who had a seat at the table with President Obama at the Jefferson Hotel Wednesday night, praised the "constructive conversation."

"I thought it was a positive, constructive, candid conversation about our debt and deficit and how we have to come together to address it," Hoeven told Jansing & Co. "It's what the American people expect and deserve."

Hoeven said he's optimistic both sides can reach a longer term agreement to deal with our nation's soaring debt--$16.6 trillion and counting. "We actually talked about a framework and a timeline that can lead to a big deal," he said.

Hoeven suggested the deal could happen in the next four to five months, building upon the framework passed by the House this week to keep the government funded for the next six months.

The senator hopes that spirit of bipartisanship will continue during the budget process and lead to a grand bargain and "get us to a big deal, to truly address the debt and deficit and entitlement reform in a way that preserves and protects Social Security and Medicare."

The GOP senators urged President Obama to have more dinners and meetings to help bring the grand bargain to the finish line, Hoeven added. "He needs to be involved like this on an ongoing basis---not off going around the country --he needs to work with members of Congress directly until we get this done," Hoeven said. "And we pressed that very forcefully."

So what was on the menu? Hoeven would only say it was "very good." The most expensive items on the menu at Lemaire restaurant at the Jefferson--trout or beef strip loin--cosst $30. Throw in a hot appetizer--cream of sunchoke bisque anyone?--and some dessert, and you're forking over at least $50 per head, not including drinks.

The White House says President Obama picked up the tab, not the taxpayer. When you include White House staffers, it's a safe bet that President Obama paid at least $650 to break bread with Republicans.