Obama’s 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 president’s second term has begun, coming after Obama was unable to replace the budget sequester.
But Republican lawmakers said Obama’s 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 charm’s not going to matter much,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
Several Senate Democrats also rejected Obama’s 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 president’s charm offensive is about the debt. I think he has been getting dividends on it. You can’t go four years with very little contact with members of the Senate and then change it overnight. But I think everyone I’ve talked to among Republican senators appreciates what he’s done the last two, three months,” he said.
“I feel like we’ve made some progress in our ability to do something about the debt between now and Aug. 1,” Alexander added. “I suspect that’ll pay dividends in other ways, such as the immigration bill.”
Sen. Rob Portman echoed Alexander in saying that long-held views on guns trumped Obama’s 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. We’ve got to work something out.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.