05/08/2013 03:40 pm ET Updated May 08, 2013

Eric Cantor, Denis McDonough Meet For Dinner As Obama Continues Charm Offensive


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama played golf with senators on Monday and is having dinner with House Democratic leaders on Wednesday evening, but he's not the only one in the White House trying to build closer ties on Capitol Hill: his chief of staff Denis McDonough is, too.

McDonough was spotted by a HuffPost reader Monday night having dinner with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) at Lincoln Restaurant here. It turns out that dinner is just the latest in a string of one-on-one meetings McDonough has been having with Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

"Over the last several weeks, Denis has reached out individually to members of Congress in both parties," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. "Earlier this week, he had dinner with Leader Cantor and enjoyed the conversation."

Details of the McDonough-Cantor dinner were scarce. Earnest wouldn't elaborate on what topics were discussed.

Cantor spokesman Doug Heye later responded only that the dinner went well.

"The leader had a very enjoyable dinner with Denis McDonough and looks forward to more opportunities to keep lines of communication open," Heye said in a statement.

Robert Costa of the National Review tweeted earlier Wednesday that Cantor had just told him about the dinner, and said the two officials discussed tax reform, fiscal issues and White House-Republican relations.

HuffPost reached out to House and Senate leadership offices, plus a few others, to see who else McDonough may have sat down with in recent weeks. Aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray (Wash.) and Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) all confirmed meetings.

"Sen. Thune and several of his colleagues met with McDonough before this past recess, and he spoke with McDonough on the phone regarding the [Anthony] Foxx nomination last week, but he hasn't met with him one on one," said Thune spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

McDonough's meetings come as Obama's outreach to Congress has gone into overdrive. In addition to this week's golf outing and dinner, Obama recently dined with all 20 female senators, had a lobster dinner with 12 Republican senators, had another dinner with Republican senators, and hosted a lunch with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

Obama will need at least some Republicans to work him as he pushes ahead with his second-term agenda, which includes immigration reform, gun control legislation and deficit reduction.

This article has been updated with comment from Cantor's spokesman.



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