President Obama clashes with McCain in Republican luncheon

Manu Raju

President Barack Obama made a rare visit to a Senate Republican lunch Tuesday – and Republicans, including John McCain, took direct aim at the White House on everything from health care to border security.

Senators and other sources inside the meeting described the gathering as “testy” and “direct” as Obama asked for Republican help on immigration, energy and the nuclear arms treaty.

Inside the lunch meeting, Obama squared off with his old rival McCain over border security, sources said. Lindsey Graham said the exchange was at times “testy,” and sources described Obama’s conversation with McCain as rather direct.

McCain said he told Obama: “We need to secure the borders first. He didn’t agree.”

During the meeting, which lasted roughly an hour and 20 minutes, sources said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) broached the issue of Wall Street reform, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) spoke about the administration’s response to the BP oil spill, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) discussed health care reform and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spoke up on a variety of issues.

Republicans came away believing Obama wants to do too much, too fast. And Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) said Obama was rather thin-skinned about criticism. “The more he talked the more he got upset,” Roberts said.

“He wants do immigration, climate change – all before we go home – he’s a very ambitious guy,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). “I think he needs to step back and see where the country is at.”

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