Obama to continue outreach to Republicans

US President Barack Obama on Saturday expressed his determination to continue outreach to his Republican opponents in order to facilitate approval by Congress of his key agenda items.

The pledge came after the president met key Republican lawmakers this week to discuss a range of issues including drastic budget cuts known as "the sequester," gun violence, the economy and immigration reform.

"Making progress on these issues won't be easy," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "But I still believe that compromise is possible. I still believe we can come together to do big things. And I know there are leaders on the other side who share that belief."

On Wednesday, in a rare break from the rancor that has driven two years of paralyzing Washington rows over taxes and spending, the president met a dozen Republican senators for dinner at an exclusive Washington hotel a few blocks north of the White House.

The group included Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, Bob Corker and Tom Coburn, congressional sources and Obama aides said. The White House also said Obama footed the bill.

The next day, Obama took his political charm offensive up another notch, welcoming at the White House Paul Ryan, a former vice presidential Republican nominee and author of a bold, but controversial plan to put the nation's finances in order.

The meeting, which also included Democratic House budget committee member Chris Van Hollen, focused on ways to rein in budget deficits and cut the $16.4 trillion national debt.

In his address, Obama gave an upbeat assessment of these contacts and vowed to continue them.

"We had an open and honest conversation about critical issues like immigration reform and gun violence, and other areas where we can work together to move this country forward," the president said. "And next week, I'll attend both the Democratic and Republican party meetings in the Capitol to continue those discussions."

He said he was confident Democrats and Republicans could agree what kind of goals they wanted to pursue.