President Barack Obama, second from right, plays golf with, from left,… (Pool / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- On the first green, President Obama put his arm around Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican.
He shared his golf cart with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Republican from Georgia.
Obama hasn’t had much luck schmoozing GOP lawmakers in the past, but he gave it another go Monday afternoon by inviting two of the Senate’s best Republican golfers out for a round at Andrews Air Force Base.
The golf outing came days after a reporter asked Obama if he has “the juice” to get anything on his agenda through Congress, a question the president answered with a laugh and the word, “Golly.”
But after a working trip to Mexico and Costa Rica last week, Obama is gearing up to push his priorities.
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“He's having one-on-one conversations, group conversations, meals, golf games, hard-headed negotiations with legislators,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters. And he’s trying to “test the theory that this kind of engagement can help produce the results that everybody in this country, or at least the majority of the people in this country who care about and pay attention to these issues, wants to see.”
With Congress back after a one-week recess, negotiators in the Senate are targeting a handful of Republican senators in hopes of passing immigration reform with a vote strong enough to give the bill some momentum in the House.
White House aides consider that strategy Obama’s best chance for legislative success. Republicans are worried about how well Obama did with Latino voters in the last election and many are open to discussing immigration reform partly as a result.
That doesn’t make it an easy lift. The conservative Heritage Foundation issued a report Monday estimating the bipartisan “Gang of Eight’s” proposed immigration bill ultimately would cost U.S. taxpayers $6.3 trillion.
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“There’s no way that you can look at this and say that it’s good for the American taxpayer,” Heritage President Jim DeMint said on Fox News.
The bill’s sponsors, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla), sharply disagree. They say the legislation would pay for itself by bringing millions of new taxpayers into the system, and will produce other economic benefits.
Obama aides say he hasn’t given up on passing stricter gun control measures or on a possible compromise with Republicans on deficit reduction.
Corker, for his part, issued a statement suggesting he wanted to talk on the links about “major fiscal issues” as well as “foreign relations around the world.”
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“Any time you can get the president’s ear for a few hours,” Corker said, “I think that’s a good thing.”
Golf Digest ranked Corker and Chambliss among the top golfers in Congress in its 2011 review. Rounding out the foursome was Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), ranked the best golfer in Congress by the magazine in that review.
Obama, who has a reported handicap of 17, typically golfs with friends and supporters.