updated 2/8/2011 5:11:56 PM ET 2011-02-08T22:11:56

President Barack Obama is hosting House Republican leaders for lunch at the White House on Wednesday. It's a step toward better outreach to the GOP, something Obama acknowledged he needed to do after Republican gains in the November midterm elections.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced the meeting between the president and House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, the top GOP leaders in the House. It's the first such meeting since Republicans assumed control of the House in January.

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Gibbs said there'd be a heavy focus on the economy and spending, and discussion of Obama's proposals from the State of the Union, ahead of next week's release of the administration's 2012 budget proposal. "They're involved in the responsibility of governing, and I think an exchange of ideas on the issues that we face are important," the spokesman said at Tuesday's White House press briefing.

Cantor, R-Va., welcomed the invitation. "Hopefully this speaks to his willingness to focus on issues that the American people are telling us to focus on, which is jobs and the economy," he told reporters at the Capital.

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Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Boehner, R-Ohio, was pleased to speak with the president "about our plans to reduce economic uncertainly and create jobs by cutting spending and breaking down barriers to private sector investment." Obama's plans to boost spending on infrastructure and education — even while cutting in other areas — already look to be on a collision course with the GOP's pledge to slash spending more broadly.

Gibbs also disclosed Tuesday that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was at the White House last Friday to lunch with the president, an event that was not on the president's public schedule for that day.

Gibbs gave no details of the discussion. McConnell's spokesman, Don Stewart, said: "They had a nice lunch on Friday. There was no readout."

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