WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday appeared to be mounting a fresh effort to dislodge a long-running budget deadlock with top Republicans, with several unusual bipartisan meetings.
Top Republican Senator Mitch McConnell announced that Obama would attend the Republican Party’s weekly policy lunch at the US Capitol for the first time since 2010 on Thursday, March 14.
And there were reports that Obama, who appears to disdain glad handing with lawmakers, will make a new overture to some Republican senators by inviting them to dinner on Wednesday night.
Obama has recently telephoned several Republicans seen as most open to dialogue on the deep ideological rift in Washington over taxes and spending, which triggered an $85 billion dollar austerity hit last Friday.
But though the dialogue with Republicans may augur a change of tone, there were no signs it would lead to any imminent breakthrough.
And Obama’s main challenge in advancing legislation on the budget and other priorities, including gun control and immigration reform, lies with the conservative Republican caucus in the House of Representatives.
Republicans refuse to agree to any new tax revenue increases to cut the deficit, demanding instead significant cuts to government programs, while Obama insists on a “balanced” approach of closed tax loopholes and targeted spending cuts.
Still, McConnell, leader of minority Republicans in the Senate, said that he appreciated that Obama had accepted his recommendation to hear from all his party’s members.
“We have numerous challenges facing the country and Republicans have offered the president serious solutions to shrink Washington spending and grow the economy,” McConnell said.
“And we will have an opportunity to discuss them with the president at the lunch.”
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, said that Obama had invited a number of Republican senators to dinner on Wednesday.
There was no immediate comment from the White House.