Obama to Break Bread Again With Congress

The president plans an April dinner with senators.

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President Barack Obama speaks at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., Friday, March 15, 2013. The president urged congress to authorize $200 million a year for research into clean energy technologies that can wean automobiles off oil.
President Barack Obama speaks at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., Friday, March 15, 2013. The president urged congress to authorize $200 million a year for research into clean energy technologies that can wean automobiles off oil.

President Obama is hoping for a spring thaw. He is planning to meet again over dinner in April with Republican senators to help forge a spirit of compromise and figure out ways to work together.

Obama will hold his latest get-together with a dozen GOP senators on April 10, White House officials say. The topics of discussion presumably will be the big priorities for Obama's second term, including deficit reduction, immigration reform and gun control.

The dinner is being organized by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. The other attendees and the location haven't been announced yet.

The problem is that Obama's last "charm offensive" didn't make much difference.

[READ: Obama, House GOP Miles Apart]

President Barack Obama speaks at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., Friday, March 15, 2013. The president urged congress to authorize $200 million a year for research into clean energy technologies that can wean automobiles off oil.
President Barack Obama speaks at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., Friday, March 15, 2013. The president urged congress to authorize $200 million a year for research into clean energy technologies that can wean automobiles off oil.

After staying relatively aloof from legislators during his first term, the president brought together a group of Republican senators for dinner at a Washington hotel in early March, and then he traveled to Capitol Hill for talks with four different groups of legislators.

Everyone made nice, but there have been no breakthroughs. In fact, the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate are committed to conflicting budget legislation, showing how far apart the two major parties remain.

What might make a difference, strategists of both parties say, is for Obama to go beyond periodic dinners and make a real effort to develop genuine relationships with members of Congress. Democratic advisers say his outreach in April may be a sign that he is intent on doing just that.

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on President Obama]

Another factor that could encourage warring factions to extend an olive branch is concern that voters see official Washington as ineffective and overly partisan. Polls show that Congress remains extremely unpopular across the country. And Obama's favorability ratings on the all-important issue of the economy are declining. Only 44 percent of Americans say they approve of his handling of the economy, a drop of 6 percentage points since December, according to the Washington Post/ABC News poll.

More News:

  • Conservatives Avoiding Obama's Charm Offensive
  • GOP 'Autopsy’ Fails to Offer Change in Policy
  • Obama Charm Offensive May Have Limited Effect
  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.