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Strange bedfellows: White House reaches out to Sen. Paul for economy meeting

 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a frequent thorn in President Obama's side, is among a bipartisan group of senators expected to attend the president's announcement Thursday on the designation of "Promise Zones" to help communities tackle poverty.

Paul is also expected to join Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other lawmakers at a private meeting with the president at the White House to discuss the initiative prior to the announcement, an aide for Paul told Fox News. 

Though Paul's inclusion may seem out of place, the conservative senator recently introduced separate legislation to create "economic freedom zones" in troubled cities like Detroit where taxes and red tape would be cut in order to encourage growth.

"They say the sincerest form of flattery is imitation," Paul told Fox News, confirming he will be at the White House on Thursday. He questioned, though, why the president's plan does not include Detroit, as his does. 

Obama's announcement is part of a focus on income inequality in the lead-up to his State of the Union address. Promise Zones are areas where the federal government provides tax incentives and grants. Obama first announced the initiative during last year's State of the Union speech. 

An eight-county region of southeastern Kentucky will be among five locations that Obama will announce this week as "Promise Zones." The president's proposed zones also include San Antonio, Texas; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

The Paul invitation could have the makings of another Obama "charm offensive" to reach out to Republicans, as he did early in 2013 to try -- unsuccessfully -- achieve a "grand bargain" budget deal.   

Paul may be a particularly elusive legislative partner. Besides launching a recent class-action lawsuit against the administration over the National Security Agency's spying practices last week, Paul has also pressed Obama on a range of issues, including a filibuster over his drone policy.

McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement Wednesday he was pleased the Obama administration decided to include Eastern Kentucky in its promise zone designation.

"I wrote a letter last year supporting this designation because this region has suffered enormous economic hardship over the last several years," McConnell said. "Thousands of jobs have been lost and economic opportunity is extremely limited, particularly because of this administration's hostile policies toward the coal industry." 

Fox News' Ed Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.