Isakson, GOP senators dine at White House

Steak, salad and sauteed vegetables in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House served as the latest step in President Barack Obama’s efforts to subdue the partisan strife with congressional Republicans.

Wednesday night’s dinner with a dozen Republican senators assembled by Georgia’s Johnny Isakson was a two-and-a-half-hour discussion primarily about the fiscal issues that have dominated Washington in recent years. The participants released hopeful statements afterward.

But the GOP’s instant dismissal of the budget Obama released just hours earlier showed that the gulf between the parties goes beyond dinner.

“We were not negotiating a transaction,” Isakson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We were sharing our thoughts and our concerns. And I thought this president was very sincere in his interest. He did a lot of listening. I thought members did a good job sharing their concerns and their thoughts.”

Isakson said the discussion touched briefly on immigration overhaul and the participants did not really get into gun control, a hot topic as the Senate scheduled a key vote on gun laws for Thursday morning.

“We did not resolve an issue to make a report on, but we had a meaningful meeting that should lead to other meetings,” Isakson said.

A White House official said, “The President thanked Sen. Iskason for bringing the group together and was pleased to host the senators for dinner tonight and looks forward to continuing bipartisan conversations in the weeks and months ahead.”

Among the guests were Florida’s Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine and John Thune of South Dakota.

Wednesday was the second time Obama dined with Senate Republicans in recent weeks; Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss was among the group at the Jefferson Hotel last month. Obama has stepped up his outreach to Congress early in his second term, including visits to the Capitol to meet with all the Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate.