By Mike Lillis - 05/09/13 02:15 AM EDT
President Obama dined with House Democratic leaders Wednesday night in Washington, the latest leg of his congressional outreach campaign amid a series of high-stakes debates on Capitol Hill.
"The group also discussed progress being made on a number of other issues, including passing comprehensive immigration reform [and] common-sense measures to reduce gun violence," the official added.
Joining the president were Democratic Reps. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Steny Hoyer (Md.), James Clyburn (S.C.), Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Rob Andrews (N.J.), Steve Israel (N.Y.) and Mike Thompson (Calif.).
All but Van Hollen and Thompson hold official leadership posts, though Van Hollen, as the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is often on the front lines of fiscal debates and has emerged as a de facto leader in that role.
The inclusion of Thompson, who chairs the Democrats' task force to prevent gun violence, is some indication that Obama is still eying tougher gun laws this year even after the Senate last month defeated the central elements of that agenda, including an assault weapons ban and an expansion of criminal background checks.
Asked if he left the meeting feeling better about the fate of gun legislation, Thompson said, "I feel good about it, yeah."
The Democrats were mostly tight-lipped after the dinner, however, largely declining to speak with a group of reporters gathered in the damp evening outside the hotel, where a small group of curious tourists waited in vain to catch a glimpse of the departing president.
"The president's very gracious and a great listener," Andrews said. "[But] we wouldn't talk about a private conversation."
Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.), a member of the bipartisan group negotiating immigration reform in the lower chamber, was also invited to the dinner, but a meeting of that immigration group prevented his attendance.
"The Chairman is going to ask the President for a rain check on dinner for after we pass comprehensive immigration reform," a Becerra aide said in an email.
The gathering was the second for Obama at the Jefferson in the last month. On April 17, the president staged a similar dinner there with 12 Senate Democrats. A week earlier, he hosted a dozen GOP senators for a steak dinner at the White House. And the Senate's 20 female senators – 16 Democrats and four Republicans – joined him for yet another gathering on April 23.
Wednesday's dinner with House Democrats began late and ran long. Though it was scheduled for 6:30 p.m., the president's motorcade did not arrive at the Jefferson until 23 minutes later.
Obama arrived back at the White House just before 9:30 p.m. He'd missed his hometown Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of their playoff series with the Miami Heat, but it was probably for the better. The Bulls were clobbered, 115-78.