Corker: Dinner with Obama ‘very constructive’

Corker was one of a dozen GOP senators invited by Obama to dinner Wednesday, as the president reaches out to congressional lawmakers about efforts towards a grand deficit bargain.

Obama and the senators discussed a number of issues during the two-hour dinner at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C. And lawmakers said that while no specific policy proposals were discussed, the meeting had helped bridge the often bitter divide between Obama and GOP members.

Corker on Thursday cautioned that there was still much work to do, but that the meeting had helped set the right tone.

“I don’t think there’s any expectation that something over the next month or six weeks is going to occur,” he said. “But I think it helped lay the foundation for constructive talks maybe between now and the debt ceiling. But certainly it was very useful, sincere, very cordial and a good dinner.

“The Republicans talked about tax reform, they talked about the types of structural entitlement reforms, the president talked about the kind of things he felt like needed to be part of a larger deal,” he added.

Asked if Obama would also speak directly with GOP leadership in the House and Senate, Corker responded “we haven’t yet come to that point.”

He said, though, that it was right that Obama was “broadening” the discussion by including more lawmakers.

“I think for people on both sides of the aisle to have these kinds of open conversations with our chief executive is a good thing,” said Corker.

Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) also attended the dinner.

Obama is also holding a meeting with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Thursday at the White House.