1. Florida Politics

Obama changing course, talking to Congress

Published Mar. 8, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is doing something he rarely does: talking to Congress.

Obama has launched an unprecedented outreach as he looks for a fiscal compromise with a divided Congress that could include an elusive deal to sharply reduce the federal deficit.

He has made calls to senators of both parties, some of them more than once. He treated a dozen Republican senators to dinner at a tony Washington hotel Wednesday and lunched with House budget leaders Thursday at the White House. Next week, he'll meet separately with Republican and Democratic caucuses in the Senate and House in an infrequent visit to the Capitol. It will be the first time he has met with Senate Republicans on their turf in nearly three years.

The talks, mostly with rank-and-file members the White House calls the "caucus of common sense," have yet to produce any results. But lawmakers welcome the conversations they say should have happened years ago.

"We've gone 180," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday. "... It's a somewhat hopeful sign that the president, now in his second term, is beginning to understand that you've got to have — even the leaders have to have support of the members."

Obama is speaking to lawmakers about his policy goals, including rewriting immigration laws and curbing gun violence, but the talks have focused primarily on trimming the deficit and cutting spending as the president senses a window to negotiate a deal, according to several people familiar with the conversations.

Democrats have been pushing a solution that includes modest cuts in spending, including changes to Social Security, Medicare and health care, and the elimination of tax loopholes. Many Republicans are opposed to raising taxes, but some moderates say they would consider additional revenues.