President Obama's new charm offensive to rank-and-file Republicans appears to be an attempt to bypass Republican leaders, like Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) -- with whom his relationship has frayed through repeated rounds of failed fiscal talks. But Boehner said Thursday that he welcomed Obama's new outreach as a way to help Republican leaders build organic support for bipartisan proposals.
"You know we went through months of campaign style events all over the country," Boehner said. "It's really kind of interesting that this week, we've gone 180. After being in office for four years, he's actually going to try to talk to members."
"I think it's as sign — a hopeful sign. And I hope something will come out of it," Boehner said.
Obama hosted a dozen Republican senators for dinner Wednesday -- some who had never before engaged in a lengthy conversation with the president. Thursday, he will host House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and ranking Budget Committee Democrat Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) for lunch. Obama's goal is to build support for a deficit reduction deal that would pair entitlement cuts with new revenues derived from an overhaul of the tax code. Next week, Obama will make a rare visit to Capitol hill to meet with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.
Boehner said he did not feel sidelined by the outreach, noting that past presidents have frequently worked both with leaders and rank-and-file members: "I don't feel like the president is going around me," he said.
But he insisted that if President Obama sticks to a demand to include new tax dollars in a deficit deal, "I don't think we're going to get very far."