Politics

Over steak, a dozen Republican senators question Obama on debt

Alex Pappas Political Reporter

A dozen Republican senators dined on steak and salad with President Obama at the White House on Wednesday night, spending most of the two-and-a-half-hour dinner questioning the president on the country’s debt problems.

“You’re always making progress when two sides of an issue are sitting down at the same table talking,” Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson said Thursday on Fox News. “We don’t ever make much progress when we’re lobbing grenades across the political boundaries. It’s a good start to what will be a very long process in terms of dealing with our debt, our deficit and our fiscal policies.”

“It was a great meal,” Isakson said. “It went about an hour longer than we expected. It was a good dialogue between the president and members of the Senate. Quite frankly, we did more talking than the president did. He was a good listener. I think we covered a lot of good ground.”

Isakson was tasked by Obama to make up the guest list.

The other Republicans reportedly invited to the dinner: Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

The group also discussed “reforming our broken immigration system and adopting common-sense measures to reduce gun violence,” according to the White House.

Before the dinner, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama hoped it would be similar to a “constructive conversation that he had the first time with a different group of senators” over dinner.

“He believes that there is a common-sense caucus in Washington that embraces the idea that compromise requires moving off of your absolutist positions,” Carney said, “accepting that you don’t get everything you want; that ideological purity is not achievable legislatively when you have a divided government as we do in Washington.”

Follow Alex on Twitter