(WASHINGTON) — President Obama met with Senate Republicans to discuss tax and entitlement reform Thursday, his third straight day of meetings on Capitol Hill.
Senate Republicans leaving the meeting indicated the meeting was constructive and most of all appreciated after a dearth of meetings between the president and Republicans in recent years.
“In the first term this was not his tone, not his attitude, this was not his method of reaching out — that’s always been astonishing to me,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said after the lobster lunch. “Obviously the president is changing his approach and for us it was welcome.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., echoed the sentiment.
“He was very candid,” McConnell said. “And we’ll see where we go from here, but it was a great meeting.”
During the meeting, according to multiple senators, the president took questions for about 90 minutes. The group covered the Keystone pipeline, immigration reform, and tax and entitlement reform.
Republicans in the meeting seemed encouraged by President Obama’s response on the need to lower corporate tax rates in a revenue-neutral way.
On entitlement reform members told Obama that entitlement adjustments are difficult to explain to the public and he is the only person in government that has a pulpit big enough to explain that.
“So he’s got an indispensable role, and we hope that he will decide to step up,” McConnell said.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said that the president in the meeting shared desires for a grand bargain that will address the nation’s budget problem.
“As was expressed in the meeting, we cannot get this deal done without the president’s serious, committed engagement on this issue,” Heller said after the meeting.
“The president said in spite of all of his own persuasive powers he may not be able to move his own members far enough to get a large deal passed and signed into law unless there is give on both sides,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said.
There were two rounds of applause for President Obama during the meeting, senators said, out of “respect” when he entered the room and on the way out.
“We made it clear he’d be welcome anytime he’d want to come,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said, adding that he told the president that “historically” this is the way that presidents have gotten results.
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