Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Obama Talks Deficit, Energy With Female Senators

President Barack Obama hosted a bipartisan group of female senators at a White House dinner Tuesday night and urged them to come together to reach a deficit-reduction deal.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said the president used the dinner with all 20 female senators – 16 Democrats and four Republicans – to push for a renewal of talks aimed at a broad deficit-reduction package.

Ms. Klobuchar said Mr. Obama spoke about his deficit reduction plan and didn’t introduce any new ideas during the session.

The dinner also saw a discussion of energy policy, perhaps a nod to moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Ms. Klobuchar said that when the matter of the Keystone pipeline was raised, the president didn’t commit to approving or rejecting the pipeline.

She said the president cited an overhaul of the country’s cyber security system as a priority.

The House passed a largely partisan bill last week aimed at preventing cyber security attacks on the U.S., despite a veto threat from the White House.

The Senate tried twice in the last Congress to pass a version of the bill, both times unsuccessfully. The Senate has now effectively gone back to the drawing board on the issue, meaning it could be some time before the chamber takes another crack at passing legislation.

In hosting the dinner, Mr. Obama wanted to strengthen personal ties to senators who are crucial to advancing his legislative agenda. The event was the fourth dinner Mr. Obama has held in recent weeks with members of the Senate.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.,N.Y.) said she had suggested to Mr. Obama on a flight on Air Force One, after the elections in November, that he meet with the women senators. Ms. Gillibrand told MSNBC that she had asked him to attend one of the women senators’ quarterly dinners. Mr. Obama said he’d “have you one better” and “have you come to the White House,” the senator said.

“Tonight’s dinner with the president was a productive extension of the bipartisan working dinners Senate women hold monthly,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), in a statement emailed by her office.

“While we obviously still need more women in the Senate, women do now represent one-fifth of the chamber, and our willingness to work across the aisle has made a difference in the way the Senate functions. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss our work with the President this evening and hope that moving forward, Congress can build off of the bipartisan inroads Senate women have made in recent years,” she said.

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