CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WRCB-DT) - President Barack Obama treated a dozen Republican Senators to dinner Wednesday night, among them, former Chattanooga Mayor, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN). "I would say there was a different tone about last night's dinner," said Senator Corker, speaking by phone with Channel 3 Eyewitness News Anchor Greg Glover.
Calling the meeting "constructive" and "positive," he offered few details from the dining room at Washington's Jefferson Hotel. "We all agreed in the meeting that we were not going to give a read-out on specific policy discussions afterwards," Sen. Corker said. "That obviously makes it more difficult to reach an agreement down the road. But, I do think, really, the best description was the tone was good. I think there was a lot of sincerity on both parts. People really opened up and talked very seriously about this issue."
The issue at hand is solving the country's fiscal ills. And while no ground-breaking détente was reached, Sen. Corker said the dinner meeting was not tense and, aided by the fact that a few had served with then-Senator Obama, called the discussion very social. he believes a solution will come, just not in a hurry. "I think the goal would be, over the next 4 or 5 months, to be able to pass a piece of legislation that really addresses our fiscal issues in a serious way," he said.
"Now, the proof's in the pudding," Corker added. "You can have nice dinners and lunches and phone calls and all those kind of things. We have to figure out a way to move forward and actually deal with this issue. Obviously, I don't think we're at that point, yet."
The working dinner took place against the backdrop of Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) filibuster on the nomination of John Brennan for CIA Director. "...it never came up," Corker said. "We were highly focused on the meeting we were having." Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), also among the dozen at dinner, would head back to the senate chamber after the meal, joining Sen. Paul before his 13 hour filibuster ended.
Asked if negotiations had been hindered by too much play in front of microphones and cameras, Corker said, "I think a big part of this actually should take place in public. Meaning, that we all need to educate the American people." As an example, Sen. Corker said he believes many Americans think they pay for all of their own Medicare. "Well, that's just not true," he said. "Americans pay for 1/3 of the costs of Medicare with their payroll taxes and their employer payroll taxes. So, these are the facts that most Americans are not cognitive of and it takes the president, it takes all of us out making people aware of these issues to be able to solve them
Corker added, resolution will come through a combination of private negotiations and public awareness which includes, "...talking about these issues openly and not using rhetoric against each other." Corker explained, "When you're sitting there, you're trying to negotiate towards a settlement and then when people leave the room, they go to the microphones and say things that are very negative about the other side," a tactic he called "very harmful."
"Hopefully," Corker offered, "there was some new ground broken, last night, regarding that, also."
"I don't think anybody should read too much into a dinner," Corker said. "I think what the American people want is results." But, noting that the two sides found some common ground, some "areas of overlap," he quickly added, "These are the kind of things that it takes to govern a country; and that is the executive branch being involved with the legislative branch. And, again, I see it as a positive sign and hopefully something we can build upon."
The president was due to lunched with Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday, will meet with Senate Democrats, later, and next week, will travel to The Hill to meet with the Senate Republican Caucus.