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Obama Continues 'Charm Offensive' on Capitol Hill

  • Kent Klein

President Barack Obama, escorted by House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, right, waves as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 13, 2013.

President Barack Obama, escorted by House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, right, waves as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 13, 2013.

President Barack Obama continues his outreach efforts to lawmakers Thursday, visiting Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. The president’s meetings have been received warmly so far, but sharp policy differences remain.

Obama meets with Senate Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives Thursday, in hopes of making progress toward resolving issues including immigration, gun control and the deficit.

After meeting with Republicans in the House of Representatives Wednesday, the president told a small group of supporters and donors he believes compromise is possible.

“We are doing our very best to reach out to the other side, and I think there is a genuine desire on the part of Republicans and Democrats to try to get something done,” Obama said.

Obama spoke to about 75 members of Organizing for Action, a group which grew out of his re-election campaign.

He asked the group to help him support lawmakers who defy political opposition to his programs.

“The politics of a lot of these issues are tough, and members sometimes are scared about making the right decisions,” Obama said. "And they are particularly scared because they are subject to pressure from special interest groups and well-financed organizations that may be pushing in a different direction.”

Obama said many lawmakers in both parties are weary of the grinding political fights that have stopped progress on the issues.

Hours earlier, the president went to Capitol Hill for his first meeting in more than two years with House Republicans as a group.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is often Obama’s chief political opponent, called the meeting a good start.

“I want to thank the president for coming to the Capitol today to visit with all of our members thought that we had a very frank and candid exchange of ideas, and frankly, I think it was productive,” Boehner said.

A White House statement called the meeting “a good, substantive exchange.”

Still, Republicans and Democrats disagree sharply on how to reduce the deficit. The administration prefers a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, while Republicans are against higher taxes.

After the meeting, Boehner said that disagreement remains.

“The president understands, yeah, we have got some long-term spending that we need to deal with, but he is going to hold hostage the fact that he wants to raise taxes on the American people again. That is not going to get us very far,” Boehner said.

It was the latest in a recent series of meetings the president has held with Republican lawmakers, in an apparent effort to bridge the partisan divide.

Obama treated 12 Republican Senators to dinner last week. The next day he invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and the committee’s top Democrat to lunch at the White House.