Shifting course in the face of political gridlock, President Barack Obama is making rare overtures to rank-and-file Republicans, inviting GOP senators to dinner Wednesday, planning visits to Capitol Hill and working the phones with lawmakers.
Obama’s efforts are aimed at jumpstarting budget talks and rallying support for his proposals on immigration and gun control.
The president’s new charm offensive underscores the limitations of his earlier attempts to use public pressure, rather than direct engagement, to win Republican cooperation. That strategy proved futile in recent weeks, as the White House and Congress failed to prevent $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that both sides said they wanted to avoid.
As that “sequester” has started taking effect, Obama has begun quietly calling congressional Republicans to discuss the prospects for an elusive longer-term deficit reduction deal as well as his other second-term priorities. Aides say Obama is concentrating his outreach on lawmakers with a history of bipartisan deal-making and those who have indicated some willingness to support increased tax revenue as part of a big deficit-cutting package.
In both his calls and dinner invitations, the president pointedly has skipped over Sen. Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, the GOP leaders who insist that Obama will get no further tax hikes from Capitol Hill.