Barack Obama to meet with House Republicans



Washington: President Barack Obama headed to Congress on Wednesday for a rare visit with Republicans in the House of Representatives even as he conceded that the parties remained far apart in their talks over a federal budget.

House Republicans have offered a new budget proposal crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who ran as the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee.

The Ryan plan is mostly political posturing, coming at the beginning of the budget process, and the White House immediately criticized it for harming the middle class. It touts longstanding Republican proposals to slash funding for domestic programs, repeal Obama's health care reform law and privatize the Medicare health care program for the elderly. It would balance the federal budget in 10 years with drastic spending cuts alone a nonstarter with Democrats.

"Ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide," Obama said in an interview broadcast today on ABC's "Good Morning America."

If Republicans insist that their only solution is to avoid tax hikes and "gut" entitlement programs, "then we're probably not going to be able to get a deal," he said.

Obama has continued reaching out to lawmakers in hopes that he can somehow reach a "grand bargain" that reins in deficit spending without hurting the economy and stops Washington from lurching from one self-induced fiscal crisis to another.

The fence-mending campaign started with an unusual dinner Obama hosted last week at a hotel near the White House for a dozen Senate Republicans and continues today with his meeting with House Republicans.

Obama, who also meets with Senate Republicans and House Democrats on Thursday, has shown a willingness to reduce spending on big entitlement programs traditionally a taboo among Democrats in exchange for closing loopholes in the tax code.

Republicans, however, object to any more tax increases, insisting that Obama got his way with tax hikes on the wealthy in the New Year's Day deal that averted the "fiscal cliff."

That last-minute deal prevented automatic tax hikes for all federal income tax payers, but merely delayed USD 85 billion in crude, across-the-board spending cuts.

PTI