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Slurpees will be optional at Obama summit

After having razzed Republicans about sipping refreshments on the sidelines, the president now says he's inviting congressional leaders to a bipartisan meeting to discuss the upcoming lame-duck session. Boehner suggests merlot.

November 04, 2010|Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — A post-election Slurpee Summit? How about a glass of wine instead?

After an electoral drubbing Tuesday, the Obama administration has signaled a renewed interest in bipartisan cooperation. Thursday, President Obama said he was inviting leaders from both parties to the White House for a "substantive" meeting to discuss the coming lame-duck session of Congress.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs later added that it would include a principals-only dinner in Obama's private residence, affording Obama a more informal opportunity to attempt to thaw the ice between himself and leaders he lambasted during the brutal midterm campaign.

On Wednesday, Obama was asked at his press conference about a potential "Slurpee Summit," a reference to an oft-delivered attack line during his midterm campaign stump speeches.

"I might serve -- they're delicious drinks," Obama responded.

John Boehner, leader of the House Republican conference and now soon to be speaker of the House, seemed receptive to the White House's post-election outreach, but quibbled with the menu.

"I don't know about a Slurpee. How about a glass of merlot?" he told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an interview today.

Boehner also distanced himself somewhat from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's recent statement that Republicans' priority in the new Congress would be ensuring Obama was a one-term president, a call the Kentucky senator defended again Thursday.

"That's Sen. McConnell's statement and his opinion," Boehner said. "I think the American people want us to focus on their message during the election: Stop the spending, get rid of the uncertainty."

Gibbs was surprisingly subdued as he was asked about McConnell's comments as well. Where he had strongly criticized them before the election, Thursday he simply said voters had sent a message to both parties that they sought cooperation, not more political games.

On the subject of summits, Gibbs was asked whether the president, often criticized on the right for his frequent golf outings, might find time to hit the links with Boehner, another fan of the sport.

"Mr. Boehner looks like a pretty good golfer," Gibbs said. "I think he might take some money from the president on that."

In another interview, Boehner told Fox News Channel's Bret Baier that no golf summit was yet in the works.

"He's played a lot more golf than I have this year," he added.

mmemoli@tribune.com

Twitter.com/mikememoli

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