Obama calls Kirk to discuss guns and deficit ahead of Capitol Hill visits
BY LYNN SWEET Twitter: @lynnsweet March 11, 2013 11:02PM
Updated: April 13, 2013 6:46AM
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama phoned Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on Monday to discuss gun violence and deficit reduction, according to a White House official, with the call coming as Obama this week makes three trips to Capitol Hill to woo members of Congress.
Obama meets with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, House Republicans on Wednesday, Senate Republicans and House Democrats on Thursday.
At the Monday briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney outlined Obama’s broad agenda with these visits, seen as a “charm offensive” needed to try to remake congressional relations.
Obama will, Carney said, discuss “a range of priorities” to include a lot more than the ongoing sequester — those automatic federal spending cuts that kicked in because of a White House/Congressional stalemate.
Last week, Obama had dinner at a hotel here with 12 GOP senators; had Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) over to the White House for lunch; is making calls — such as the Kirk phoner; and, with the Capitol Hill visits, talking directly to members — not just their leader.
Obama basically discussed “legislative priorities” with Kirk, I was told.
The president gave Kirk a cordial greeting when he saw him at as he entered the House chamber on Feb. 12 for his State of the Union speech. Obama gave a fist bump to Kirk, who returned to the Senate last January after an absence of nearly a year because of a stroke.
While Obama and Kirk served together in Congress, the two have never been particularly close. Kirk is seen by the Obama team as one of the Senate Republicans who may on occasion work with the White House, for example, on legislation to curb gun violence.
Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have championed legislation, on track to pass the Senate, to crack down on gun trafficking and fencing. However, Kirk so far has opposed a measure to require background checks for all gun buyers — though he has not closed that door.