Amidst all the Godfather quoting and tweet reading Wednesday night, you may have missed out on the 12 Republican senators who were not in attendance for Rand Paul’s filibuster. Where were they? Well, they were eating dinner with the president at the Jefferson Hotel.
The dinner is actually part of a sustained effort this week to speak with Republicans in attempts to broker a budget deal. The administration has been criticized by liberals and conservatives alike for not taking enough time to speak with members of Congress on a regular basis.
In the rancor that has issued from Capitol Hill over the past few months, communication between Congress and the White House reached new lows. It was so poor in fact, that a high-ranking Republican admitted not knowing the specifics of what exactly the president was willing to negotiate on.
For example, Republicans want means based testing for Medicare. On page 34 of the president's proposed budget, under the heading "Increase Income-Related Premiums Under Medicare Parts B and D," he suggests doing just that.
The dinner was held as a way to help bridge the gap that now exists between the president and Republicans. Some of those in attendance were Republican Senators Tom Coburn (R-Ohio), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).
Coburn said that the president seemed sincere in his wish to work together on finding a budget solution. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that they were able to identify common ground and ways to move forward to help balance the budget.
Not all Republicans were as thrilled with Rand Paul as Rand Paul. Two of the senators that attended dinner with the president on Wednesday have come out in order to criticize Paul’s filibuster.
McCain, speaking on the filibuster Thursday, said, “If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in college dorms.”
Graham had equally harsh words for Paul, “To my Republican colleagues, I don’t remember any of you coming down here suggesting that President Bush was going to kill anybody with a drone, do you? They had a drone program back then, all of a sudden this drone program has gotten every Republican so spun up. What are we up to here?”
Graham also said of the drone controversy is, “... paranoia between libertarians and the hard left that is unjustified.”
These statements highlight the growing divide between the Republican Party on how best to move their party and country forward. Is the best way to remain obstructionist, to block the administration at every juncture? Or is there room for compromise? The senators who dined with the president last night seem to think the latter.
Graham, McCain, and others are committed to working with the president and Congress on solving the budget issue. Tom Coburn said the Republicans who dined with president were individuals willing to give up their seat in order to see something get done.
The unwillingness of some Republicans to compromise not only hurts the party politically, it makes addressing the nation's problems that much more complicated. Which in turn hurts them politically ... it’s a giant feedback loop.
Obstructionism may make for great TV, but it’s a beast if you are trying to actually run a country.