WASHINGTON — Maine Sen. Susan Collins is among a group of Republican senators who were to dine at the White House on Wednesday night as part of President Obama’s efforts to build relationships with members from across the political aisle.
The dinner will be the second time in as many days that Collins and Obama have spoken. Collins’ spokesman Kevin Kelley confirmed Wednesday that the president called the Maine Republican on Tuesday. The president reportedly made several calls to potential swing-vote senators as the Senate prepares to vote on a package of gun-control measures.
This is the second dinner that Obama is holding with Senate Republicans in recent weeks and it comes on the same day that his administration released a $3.77 trillion federal budget that contains tax increases, spending cuts and changes to both Social Security and Medicare.
The president’s proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security – including adjusting the cost-of-living formula for Social Security recipients – are part of his administration’s efforts to strike a “grand bargain” with Republicans.
But the proposals angered some progressive Democrats. And while Republican leaders said they were pleased to see some movement on “entitlement reform,” they offered little praise for the president on Wednesday morning.
“The document headed our way does not appear designed to bridge the differences between the House- and Senate-passed budgets,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a floor speech. “That’s the role Americans would expect the president to play at this stage, but his budget simply does not represent some grand pivot from left to center. It’s really just a pivot from left to left.”
Wednesday’s guest list of Republican senators was compiled by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. The senators are expected to talk about the budget, the economy and fiscal issues. But with Senate voting on gun control expected to begin Thursday, that issue is likely to be on the minds if not the lips of Obama and the Republican senators during the goodwill dinner.
Collins is a co-sponsor of proposals to stiffen penalties for gun traffickers and straw-purchase buyers as well as to provide schools with more resources to strengthen security. But the Maine Republican has said she cannot support the current proposal to ban military-style assault weapons.