Barack Obama is to host a rare dinner at a top hotel near the White House for selected Republican senators on Wednesday night, part of his new-found strategy of bypassing the party's congressional leadership in the stand-off over spending, immigration, guns and other issues.
Obama has invited Republican senators such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who have been outspoken critics of the president on issues such as Libya and Syria but are supportive on immigration reform, as well as relatively relatively liberal Republicans such as Susan Collins.
The dinner at the Jefferson Hotel is scheduled to last about three hours.
The dinner comes after Obama held a series of phone calls over the weekend and early this week with individual Republicans after the sequester cuts to the federal budget began on Friday. Obama reached out to individual senators after failing even to get negotiations started with the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, and House speaker John Boehner.
McConnell announced Wednesday that Obama is to attend a lunch for Senate Republicans next week, the first time since 2010. The invitation was made at McConnell's suggestion.
Boehner's office said that it is trying to co-ordinate with the White House on finding a suitable time for a similar lunch with House Republicans. The White House requested that luncheon.
The White House press secretary Jay Carney said: "Next week, the president will travel to Capitol Hill and meet separately with the Democratic and Republican caucuses in both the House and Senate. The president asked for the opportunity to speak to the caucuses about the priorities on his legislative agenda. More details about the time and day of each meeting will be announced later."
Obama was criticised in his first term for failing to engage enough with Republican members of Congress. Part of the problem also lay with the Republicans, particularly House members backed by the Tea Party who felt it would be unhelpful to re-election to be pictured with the president.
Obama's outreach programme may be partly cosmetic, enabling him in the future to say that at least he tried. But there is more to it than just that, according to White House staff.
A large slice of Republicans in the House last week joined Democrats last week in voting for renewal of the violence against women act. Previously, House Republicans had blocked it because it extended rights to transsexuals, Native Americans and others. Obama is sign the bill into law shortly.
Obama, if he is to ensure his second term is not remembered by an endless series of squabbles with the Republicans over tax and spending, needs to win over at least some Republicans to get through proposed bills on immigration reform and gun controls as well as budget issues.
The Democrats have a majority in the Senate and would only require the help of a handful of Republicans to ensure they could defeat a filibuster.
Senators invited to the dinner Wednesday, in addition to Graham, McCain and Collins, according to CNN, are Bob Corker, Kelly Ayotte, Dan Coats, Tom Coburn, Richard Burr, Mike Johanns, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and John Hoeven.
McConnell, in a statement about next week's lunch, was more cordial than recent pronouncements about the president. "Senate Republicans welcome the president to the Capitol. And I appreciate he took my recommendation to hear from all of my members," McConnell said.
He said it would offer his members a chance to discuss spending cuts with the president.
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