Obama plans to dine with 4 letter writers in Kansas City as clock ticks toward August recess


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President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, as he announces new economic sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy in the latest move to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his support for Ukrainian rebels. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)


President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, as he announces new economic sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy in the latest move to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his support for Ukrainian rebels. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)


President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall during the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Monday, July 28, 2014, in Washington. The President announced that the program will be renamed in honor of former South African President Nelson Mandela. The summit is the lead-up event to next week’s inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the largest gathering any U.S. President has held with African heads of state. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)


President Barack Obama awards the 2013 National Humanities Medal to Ellen Dunlap of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass., during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is taking four Kansas City residents out to dinner to chew over the concerns of heartland Americans, with little time remaining for action on pressing issues before Congress begins its August recess.

Obama's Tuesday night gathering comes roughly 48 hours before Congress is set to go on a five-week break and is the latest in a series of trips the president has taken to meet Americans who have written him about their struggles and worries. Obama has been using their stories to criticize congressional Republicans in this midterm election campaign for failing to act on his legislative agenda.

Before Congress leaves town, the White House is pressing lawmakers to approve an overhaul of the Veterans Affairs health care system and funding to deal with an influx of children streaming in across the southern border. Leading Republicans, meanwhile, have criticized Obama for spending his time raising campaign cash instead of negotiating on complex problems.

"The president just wants to sit back and play politics," incoming House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana said on "Fox News Sunday." ''He's flying around the country doing fundraisers. He doesn't have time to sit down and work with Congress."

Unlike other travel across the country in recent weeks, Obama doesn't plan any political fundraisers while overnighting in Kansas City, Missouri, for the dinner and a speech on the economy Wednesday. Obama's chief spokesman, Josh Earnest, is a native of the city, and called four Obama letter writers from his hometown Monday to invite them to dine with the president.

The White House promoted an online video of Earnest surprising the letter writers with the invitation with his Kansas City Royals banner prominent in the background of his West Wing office.

The White House said the Kansas City letter writers included a man who thanked Obama for student loan help he received, a single mother who described her challenges raising children and running a business, a teacher in a GED program and a woman who is active in her neighborhood association.

Before his evening flight, Obama announced expanded sanctions against Russia in response to the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. He then met privately with 12 service members being treated at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.


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