Obama sets rare meeting with Republicans next week
Washington: President Barack Obama plans a rare meeting with Senate Republicans next week as tensions between his administration and the opposition party remain high over ways to fix the country's massive deficit.
The meetings are part of Obama's broader outreach to Republicans after the White House and Congress failed to reach a deal to avert the $85 billion in budget cuts that started going into effect Friday.
The president is specifically reaching out to rank-and-file Republicans, not their leadership. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office says the president requested the meeting through his chief of staff.
The meeting will take place next Thursday as the US braces for its latest fiscal crisis, a possible government shutdown at the end of the month.
McConnell's office says Obama last attended the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in May 2010. "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 in a statement.
"And we will have an opportunity to discuss them with the president at the lunch."
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner's office said the president had also requested a meeting next week with House Republicans, who control the chamber while Democrats control the Senate.
The White House and Boehner's office were working to schedule that meeting, the speaker's office said.
White House aides say the president's calls with Republicans focus in part on jumpstarting broader budget talks, but also on Obama's proposals for overhauling the nation's immigration laws and enacting stricter gun control measures.
"He is reaching out and talking to members about a variety of issues not just our fiscal challenges, but certainly the fiscal issues are among the issues he is talking about with lawmakers," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.