WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama briefed congressional leaders for an hour Tuesday on foreign policy issues that have recently dominated his agenda, from his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month to his recent session in Northern Ireland with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The meeting, in the White House Oval Office, was the first since March 1 among the president, Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The meeting came as the president is making his case for an immigration overhaul and for avoiding a big increase in student loan interest rates on July 1. But the discussion centered exclusively on foreign policy, according to congressional officials.
Neither the White House nor the leaders immediately commented after the meeting broke up.
Boehner's office, however, said that Obama informed the four leaders about issues around the globe and that Boehner appreciated the courtesy.
Obama's diplomatic push with China and his efforts to find international consensus on Syria have been at the forefront of his foreign policy in recent weeks. He met with Xi at a desert retreat in California earlier this month. He also attended the summit of the Group of Eight industrial economies in Northern Ireland, where he met with Putin on the sidelines.
The Xi and Putin meetings addressed areas of dispute – cybersecurity with China and Syria with Russia.
Tensions with both countries have ticked up in recent days as the United States seeks the return of former national Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden for leaking U.S. surveillance methods. Snowden had been in Hong Kong but was allowed to leave for Moscow even after the United States submitted an extradition request. Putin said Tuesday that Snowden is in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport and has not passed through Russian immigration, meaning he technically is not in Russia and thus is free to travel wherever he wants.