The Washington Times - March 6, 2013, 09:25AM

President Obama will travel to the Capitol next week to hold a private lunch meeting with Republican senators, GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday.

It will be Mr. Obama’s first such visit in three years, and seems to underscore a new effort on behalf of the White House to try to work with Congress rather than to pressure it from the outside.

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White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president next week also will meet separately with House Republicans, as well as House and Senate Democrats.

“The President asked for the opportunity to speak to the caucuses about the priorities on his legislative agenda,” Mr. Carney said in a statement. “More details about the time and day of each meeting will be announced later.”

Mr. McConnell’s office said Mr. Obama requested the meeting, and the White House said this week that the president has been reaching out to a number of key lawmakers individually to try to create the groundwork for a broad deals on tax increases and spending cuts later this year.

“Senate Republicans welcome the president to the Capitol. And I appreciate he took my recommendation to hear from all of my members,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement.

Mr. Obama last sat down with Senate Republicans at one of their weekly party lunches in May 2010 — back when his party still controlled both chambers of Congress and he had much more leverage to push through his agenda.

But in the 2010 elections, Republicans won control of the House and gained seats in the Senate, setting up the last two years of bitter fights over taxes and spending, along with a harsh presidential campaign that squelched most other work on Capitol Hill.

Mr. McConnell’s comment in late 2010 that his chief legislative goal was to make Mr. Obama a one-term president didn’t make relations any easier.

Now, with automatic spending cuts taking effect, the president appears to be in a mood to deal. He has said he wants to seek a package of tax increases, coupled with lower projected entitlement spending, in order to restore some of the sequester cuts to basic military and domestic spending.

• Susan Crabtree contributed to this blog entry.