GOP's Corker on dinner with Obama: "Sincere and open"


(CBS News) President Obama hosted 12 Republican senators Wednesday night to discuss what Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., called "the biggest issue our nation faces." The group joined the president at a restaurant near the White House for a conversation Corker said "helped lay a foundation for constructive talks maybe between now and the debt ceiling."

Corker described the conversation as "very constructive," "perfectly normal" and "very honest" Thursday on "CBS This Morning."

"Republicans talked about tax reforms ... they talked about the types of structural entitlement reforms," he said, adding, "the president talked about the kinds of things that he felt like needed to be part of a larger deal."

Corker -- who discussed some of the issues at hand with White House senior economic adviser Gene Sperling on Monday -- stopped short of offering specifics regarding a budget deal, saying "everybody has agreed they're not going to give a readout of policy issues that were discussed."

"The most salient part about the dinner was it was a very sincere and open conversation," Corker said, before addressing the notion that the president decided to meet with the dozen senators because his conversations with Republican leaders on the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts called the sequester were unproductive.

"I don't think the president ever alluded to the fact that he didn't think he could have those kinds of conversations with the leadership," Corker said. "I do think that broadening it out is a very helpful thing. My sense is he's going to do the same with some Democratic senators sometime soon."

On Thursday, Mr. Obama will be joined by former Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, at the White House for lunch. Corker said that, to him, the recent slew of bipartisan meetings is "pretty normal."

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"The fact that this is being covered so much," said Corker, "indicates it is a pretty big change."