Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain appear to be the driving force behind Wednesday night’s scheduled GOP dinner with President Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, Graham wouldn’t take credit directly, but the South Carolina lawmaker acknowledged that he and McCain talked to the president about his Hill outreach when they went to the White House last week to meet with Obama.
“I think the president and I had a discussion with Sen. McCain. We talked about how we could engage Congress and the president,” Graham said. “I’ve never known of a big deal or a small deal accomplished without people talking to each other. So start with the proposition that silence and distance doesn’t lead to results and you start moving toward talking to each other.”
Graham added, “This is an effort by the president to talk to people who he would like to talk [to] that he normally doesn’t talk to. I think he talks to the leadership guys a lot. This is not about replacing anybody. It’s about trying to get a dialogue going between elected officials in the executive and legislative branches.”
Graham noted that President Ronald Reagan was aggressive at reaching out to the Hill.
“It wasn’t news. Its sad that it’s news now. That’s what’s wrong. If you’d written a story that Ronald Reagan talks to Democrats and Republicans you wouldn’t get your editors to print it. Its news today unfortunately, and that’s what we are trying to stop. It should not be news that people talk to each other,” he said.
Graham said that during the president’s first term, he was a “distant figure. ... His presidency would be best served by talking to people and I think we are starting that process.”
Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the president’s overtures or the prospects of the dinner changing the conversation on the issues at hand.
“That’s not my interest. My interest is doing the hard work to get something done,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, adding that he had not officially been invited to the dinner.
Portman spoke on the phone with Obama over the weekend, but would not further characterize that conversation.
The White House announced Wednesday morning that the president would have dinner with a handful of Republicans at the Jefferson Hotel, weather permitting. (There is a storm blanketing the D.C. region with snow.)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks with reporters following a vote in the Senate. Gillibrand’s proposal to remove military commanders from the process of reviewing sexual-assault cases was left out of the bicameral deal on the defense authorization bill, but the senator is pushing for a vote on her plan soon.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.