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One date is not enough: Obama to dine again with GOP senators

March 27, 2013|By Lisa Mascaro and Kathleen Hennessey

WASHINGTON – President Obama is taking Senate Republicans on another date night.

Following his successful dinner earlier this month with a dozen GOP senators, during which they discussed budgets, the president has dialed up his ideological adversaries to request more of the same.

Obama phoned Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia to arrange for a second dinner, and the senator is putting together a guest list of another dozen GOP senators, none of whom attended the first one.

The save-the-date is April 10, with a location to be determined, an aide to the senator confirmed.

“The president called Sen. Isakson in the last 10 days and asked if he would like to spearhead a second dinner to build on the first dinner,” said Joan Kirchner, deputy chief of staff for the two-term Georgia Republican. “Sen. Isakson said he would be happy to do so.”

The White House confirmed that the dinner, first reported Wednesday by Politico, is on.

Obama’s initial dinner outing with Republicans, at a posh downtown restaurant, seemed to be well received by senators – so much so that the Republican minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, rang up the president himself and encouraged Obama to do it again.

If the April meal goes off as planned, the president will have dined with almost half of the 45-member Republican caucus in the Senate.

That said, senators also wanted to see the president put his charm to work more broadly, and suggested that the outreach would mean little if the White House did not use its power to talk to the American people about the difficult budget issues ahead.

This summer, Congress will be asked to raise the U.S. debt limit to avoid defaulting on obligations. Republicans will press the White House for budget cuts in exchange, and will likely target the Medicare and Medicaid health programs, which are driving much of the red ink. Democrats will insist on raising tax revenue to help plug the budget gaps.

The debate is likely to be difficult, and one that could easily fall into the cycle of brinkmanship that has complicated past budget battles between Congress and the White House.

The dinner dates may help set the tone, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has said, but will not resolve the differences.

At this rate, though, Obama will have dined with half the Senate Republicans long before the deadline.

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

Twitter:@LisaMascaroinDC

@khennessey

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