President Barack Obama reached across the aisle on his somber trip to Orlando to visit families of those who were killed in Sunday's mass shooting , inviting GOP Sen. Marco Rubio to join him on Air Force One.
Just after the presidential jumbo jet touched down around 12:45 p.m. (EDT), a Rubio aide confirmed the Florida senator was on the flight.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters traveling with the president's delegation that Rubio and Obama had been expected to chat while in the air.
[ Out of Options, Obama Now a Bystander in Gun Debate ] "I suspect the conversation ... will be much more focused on the events of today and the aftermath of the tragedy," Schultz said when asked if the president was to offer any advice to Rubio, who is mulling whether to seek another term .
"This is a moment where Democrats and Republicans can come together and show that in the wake of a horrific attack, when one community is attacked in the United States of America, the United States of America stands together and united to help," Schultz said.
Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., also traveled with the president. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson was part of the group that greeted Obama's arrival. He flew down earlier with Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. As the two Florida senators were landing in their home state, senators were working on a plan to address two gun-related measures on the floor, votes forced by a 15-hour filibuster by Sen. Christopher S. Murphy. The Democratic senator hails from Connecticut, where a gunman in 2012 killed 20 young students and six adults at an elementary school.
During the flight, the White House threw its support behind one of the measures.
[ Senate Plans Vote on Two Gun-Control Proposals ] California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s amendment , which aims to prohibit suspected terrorists on federal watch lists from buying firearms, "would make a substantive difference," Schultz said, via a White House pool report.
Obama hopes the Orlando massacre would cause GOP lawmakers to reverse course and support the Feinstein measure and others like it, Schultz said, adding the president hopes the worst mass shooting incident in American history would an era in which, as he described it, Republicans have “carried water for the NRA."