Obama in 'terrific form' during intimate dinner with Democratic senators

Senate Democrats discussed a proposal to use a new formula to calculate Social Security benefits at a two-hour dinner with President Obama at the Jefferson Hotel Wednesday evening.

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“We talked for two hours on a wide range of topics and the president was in terrific form,” said a Democratic senator who broke bread with the president. “We discussed the topics you’d expect, as well as some you might not expect.”

A White House pool report, quoting an administration official, said topics included the terrorist attack in Boston, immigration reform, the economy and gun control.

The dinner came hours after the Senate dealt a stinging blow to the president's agenda by rejecting a White House-backed plan on background checks for gun sales. 

Obama invited a dozen Democratic senators to join him for an informal dinner after holding two similar meetings with separate groups of Republican senators.

The lawmaker said Obama discussed his controversial proposal to use the chained consumer price index to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security benefits, but said the issue did not dominate the conversation.

Labor unions and liberal Democrats have strongly criticized the president’s concession on a social safety net program dear to their constituents. The White House has argued the proposal was important to show that the president is committed to finding bipartisan deficit-reduction deal and has challenged Republicans to compromise.

“Tonight’s dinner was a very productive continuation of the conversations many of us have been having with President Obama about creating jobs, tackling our deficit and debt in a balanced and bipartisan way, and other critical issues,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

Obama asked Murray, the Senate Budget Committee chairwoman, to assemble the guest list.

Murray said the president and Democratic senators are united in their desire to solve the bitter, protracted budget debates in Congress and stop Washington from “lurching from crisis to crisis.” 

“We also share the hope that some Republicans will finally step out of their partisan corner and join us at the table willing to offer some compromises that will help move our country and our economy forward,” she said.

Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Chris Coons (Del.) also attended.

Senators ordered from the menu, which offers pavé of halibut with green and white asparagus and diver sea scallops in a hazelnut emulsion.

Reed said the dinner was “good.” Stabenow went a step further and called it “great.” 

Obama’s motorcade headed to the Jefferson shortly before 7 p.m. and returned to the White House at about 9:15 p.m.

The president ate with a dozen Republicans at the same hotel, located a short distance up 16th Street from the White House, on March 6.

—This article was updated at 11:55 p.m.