Aug. 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Obama Focuses on Elusive Grand Bargain in Hill Outreach

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Obama arrives at the Capitol to meet with Senate Democrats during the Tuesday luncheons. The meeting was part of a larger push by the president to bring the parties together — the first of four meetings with lawmakers in both chambers this week.

“It was a workmanlike meeting where we talked about the importance of getting the CR done, getting the budget done, sticking together to make sure the path forward includes jobs, jobs, jobs; a balanced approach to deficit reduction ... and I feel very good about it,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D- Calif., said. “I feel we are on the same page.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Obama’s main message was: “We need to get [a budget] done, it needs to be balanced and responsible, and we need for it to focus on economic growth.”

Democrats asked at least six questions, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., queried the president about his policy of using drones, according to senators. The hot-button issue got renewed attention last week when Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., filibustered the Senate for nearly 13 hours in order to highlight the issue and the possible use of drones against Americans on American soil. Rockefeller noted the tension between the Senate Intelligence panel and the White House over the lack of transparency on the drone program, and he asked the president how to foster a better oversight relationship with Congress.

Other issues that came up included foreign policy and immigration. Gun policy, which is also being hotly contested in Congress after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, did not come up, despite the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval earlier in the day of a bill to enhance background checks.

And Republicans aren’t the only ones who have been frustrated by a lack of attention from the White House.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he was pleased with the discussion.

“It’s always good to talk,” Baucus said. Asked whether the president has reached out to Congress enough on fiscal issues, he said, “Better late than never.”

Democrats also discussed the more immediate issues of their budget blueprint and funding the government for the rest of the year.

On Wednesday, Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., will unveil the Senate budget resolution, which will include nearly $1 trillion each in spending cuts and new revenue over the coming decade.

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