It sounds like President Obama is getting lonely. And – surprise – Republicans aren’t keen on helping him out.
Asked about the state of congressional relations at his news conference today, the president mused aloud that to some Republicans, “it doesn’t look real good socializing with me.”
“I’m a pretty friendly guy. And I like a good party,” the president said. “I promise you, we invite folks from Congress over here all the time. And when they choose to come, I enjoy their company. Sometimes they don’t choose to come, and that has to do with the fact that I think they don’t consider the optics useful for them politically.”
Obama’s often futile attempts to get a Republican to punch his dance card are fairly well-documented.
House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to not have his photo taken with the president at a White House holiday party last month may have been overblown, but it was taken as a sign that the fiscal cliff wasn’t making the power players any friendlier with each other.
The speaker’s office insists that wasn’t a snub. But the fact is that Boehner has turned down an invitation to every formal state dinner Obama has held – six in total. (Boehner did attend a formal White House dinner honoring Queen Elizabeth II in 2007, when George W. Bush was president.)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also turned down at least two invites to state dinners, according to press reports. He did, however, attend the dinner honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011, and has also been to the White House for at least one social event for congressional leadership, according to McConnell’s office.
McConnell, R-Ky., declined an invitation last spring when the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team was honored at the White House for winning the national championship. But to be fair, the event was held the day before the Kentucky Derby – a good time to be back in the home state — and McConnell is known to be a bigger fan of the Louisville Cardinals, anyway.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., also chose to enjoy a sporting event away from the White House. He was invited to join the president in watching his Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV in 2011, though few would fault him for choosing to watch the game in person instead.
Also in 2011, the White House held a reception for newly elected members of Congress. Only 27 of the new Republican House members showed up, out of the record GOP freshman class of 87.
More recently, no elected Republicans attended a White House screening of “Lincoln” last month, though McConnell, Boehner, Sen. Lamar Alexander, and Sen. Tom Coburn were among invitees. They missed out on seeing the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and a few people named Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, James Spader, and Tommy Lee Jones.
As with all things, the president said he’s optimistic for his second term.
“I’ll be probably calling around, looking for somebody to play cards with me or something, because I’m getting kind of lonely in this big house,” he said. “So maybe a whole bunch of members of the House Republican caucus want to come over and socialize more.”