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Gun Loss Shouldn't Deter Obama Charm Offensive, Republicans Say

Presidents outreach could assist deals on immigration, debt

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Obamas charm offensive might not have affected votes on gun control legislation, but Republicans say it might contribute to deals on immigration and debt.

Several Republican senators say President Barack Obama should keep up his charm offensive despite seeing his gun agenda shredded April 17 by a minority of the Senate.

That defeat added to the fizzle with which the presidents second term has begun, coming after Obama was unable to replace the budget sequester.

But Republican lawmakers said Obamas effort to reach out to them could yet bear dividends as he tries to forge a bipartisan budget deal on entitlements and debt and perhaps get an immigration overhaul he can sign.

Guns are just an issue where senators have very strong views one way or the other on and charms not going to matter much, said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Several Senate Democrats also rejected Obamas appeals on the gun measures, fearing a general-election backlash from voters that Obama acknowledged April 17 in his Rose Garden comments. Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure, he said, admitting that the gun issue will have to be settled at the ballot box.

Alexander has been pushing the president for years to talk to lawmakers more and said he believes it can be effective.

The presidents charm offensive is about the debt. I think he has been getting dividends on it. You cant go four years with very little contact with members of the Senate and then change it overnight. But I think everyone Ive talked to among Republican senators appreciates what hes done the last two, three months, he said.

I feel like weve made some progress in our ability to do something about the debt between now and Aug. 1, Alexander added. I suspect thatll pay dividends in other ways, such as the immigration bill.

Sen. Rob Portman echoed Alexander in saying that long-held views on guns trumped Obamas developing relationship with senators.

I think on some of these issues like immigration and budget, the White House perspective might be a little more influential, the Ohio Republican said. They should continue to reach out and do more of it, and Republicans should be willing to sit and talk with them, especially given the fact the debt limit vote is coming up at the end of July. Weve got to work something out.

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