President Obama travels to Capitol Hill Tuesday to engage Senate Republicans, a rare meeting he requested and was billed as "wide-ranging," according to Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY.
"All topics are on the table," Stewart tells Fox.
But, unlike a session with House Republicans in January, there will be no cameras to record the rare event.
The meeting will take place just off the Senate floor in a room named for a former Senate Democratic Leader, Lyndon Baines Johnson -- a cramped room Republicans were forced to take for their weekly policy lunch after Democrats won the majority, thereby taking the larger meeting room down the hall.
The press is allowed a very rare "stakeout" location (with a TV camera) just outside the room, though we'll only get a passing glance at the President, unless he decides to stop and talk.
Last time the President met with this group, he was seeking their help in passing the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. That didn't go so well, though. Only three Republicans voted for that bill in the end, and one of them, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched parties as a result -- then got ditched by constituents in his new party just recently in the Democratic primary.
But all of that might look like a cake-walk compared to the situation in the Senate now just 5 1/2 months before the midterms (though it often feels like 5 1/2 days around here). Republicans are in serious campaign mode, and it's not likely there will be many (if any) bipartisan moments left this year, save the naming of a post office.
One Republican, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, is poised to filibuster the $60 billion emergency supplemental spending bill, as it is not paid for with offsets. The bill provides $33.5 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; $6.1 billion for the State Dept - including aid for disaster-stricken Haiti; and $5.1 billion for FEMA disaster relief. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, intends, with support from the White House, to add another $23 billion to the price tag to avoid thousands of teacher layoffs.
Unless there are changes, this money will go directly to the deficit.
Most Republicans, if not all, are preparing to block a major "jobs" measure, the so-called "tax-extenders" bill --- a $200 billion piece of legislation aimed at extending unemployment benefits through the end of the year, repairing a payment cut for Medicare doctors for 3 1/2 years, extending some Bush-era tax cuts, providing money for the BP oil spill response, as well as money for mine safety, infrastructure, and a summer youth jobs program.
And though Democrats have classified much of the spending in the bill as an "emergency," which is therefore exempt from "pay as you go" rules that require spending cuts or tax hikes to offset the expenses, Republicans and some moderate Dems, nervous about the impending midterm elections, are balking at about $130 billion that would directly increase the deficit.
And Republicans are anxious to show they "feel the pain" of voters in this anti-Washington, anti-incumbent election year where a rising tide of red ink has given rise to an entirely new activist wing of the Republican party.
The president won't even have the comfort of noshing on some Senate-catered food while he takes questions. Senate Republicans have decided to nix the lunch portion of the program --- no clanging of silverware or smacking of food to get in the way of serious, professional conversation. Though maybe that's better --- there'll be nothing messy to throw.