By Geneva Sands - 03/12/13 08:21 PM EDT
"With regard to what a lot of you have described as the president's charm offensive — we welcome it. The reports I got from the members who went down to dinner with him last week was excellent, that they had a good exchange," said McConnell at a press conference posted online by CBS News.
Senate Republicans emerged from the dinner more optimistic that a grand bargain on the deficit would be reached.
The GOP leader said that last week he told Obama he "hoped" the president would invite all the members to dinner.
"It was a good opportunity to have a candid conversation, and we all know that with the president's request to raise the debt ceiling here again later this summer, we'll be discussing again the possibility of solving finally solving our huge deficit and debt problems about making the kinds of changes to the entitlement side," he said.
McConnell told reporters that Republicans will use the expiration of the debt limit this summer as leverage to get Obama to consider entitlement reforms.
This could set up a standoff over the nation’s borrowing authority, similar to the one that resulted in the nation losing its credit rating in 2011.
“Until we make our entitlement programs fit the demographics of our country, you can’t save America, you can’t save the healthcare system,” McConnell said. “There is no revenue solution, I would say to you.”
He also lambasted Obama for tardiness in producing a budget.
"It is noteworthy to point out that this is the first time in ninety years that the president's budget will actually come up after both the House and Senate have voted. I hope that's not a reflection of a lack of seriousness, but it is beyond tardy," he added.