Did Obama's GOP dinner diplomacy pay off?

The president wined and dined a dozen Republican senators, and they emerged surprisingly optimistic about a big budget deal

Sen. John McCain gives a thumbs up as he emerges from a private dinner with President Obama on March 6.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

While Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was transfixing Washington with his 13-hour filibuster Wednesday evening, President Obama personally treated a dozen Senate Republicans to a nice dinner at Washington's tony Plume restaurant. In a tactical shift, Obama started reaching out to rank-and-file Republicans over the past week to pursue a big deal on the federal budget, and in one of his phone calls, he asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to make a guest list for last night's unusual bread-breaking. Graham and all 11 of his invited colleagues emerged from the dinner surprisingly optimistic, with every one of them describing the dinner as productive, even enjoyable, and a helpful first step toward the elusive "grand bargain."

"I think what he is really trying to do is just start a discussion and break the ice, and that was appreciated," Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) said as he left the dinner. "His goal is ours — we want to stop careening from crisis to crisis and solving every problem by meeting a crisis deadline." The senators — along with Johanns and Graham—were Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), John Hoeven (N.D.), John McCain (Ariz.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.) — said talk at the dinner focused on finding common ground for a long-term fix to America's fiscal situation.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.