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Obama talks generalities with GOP leaders

  |   Feb. 9, 2011 at 5:23 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama discussed spending cuts and deficit reduction with House GOP leaders at a White House lunch Wednesday, but didn't get into specifics.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California shared the private luncheon with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff William Daley, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said during his daily press briefing.

Gibbs said the meeting was "very constructive, that they agreed on … cutting spending and reducing our deficit, that we should have a broad discussion ... with the American people the size and the scope of the problem that we face in getting our fiscal house in order."

But when asked if they reached any specific agreements on anything, Gibbs said, "Not that I'm aware of."

"I don't think that people looked at this as a negotiating session," Gibbs said.

"As the president said at the end of last year, we needed to do a better job in reaching out. … I think this was an opportunity to listen to each other and to figure out where that common ground is."

Cantor said Tuesday his concerns include part of Obama's speech Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"I think that what I heard is a sense that somehow business in America needs to respond and act in a way that is somehow grateful for Washington's acts," Cantor said at a briefing.

"And this sort of quid pro quo, that if Washington acts to -- whatever it is the president's proposing, whether it's reducing the corporate rates or whether it's passing trade bills -- that somehow business owes it to the country to do X, Y, Z. I think that misses the mark," The Washington Post quoted him as saying.

Wednesday's meeting came five days before Obama unveils his 2012 budget proposal. Republicans are seeking deep cuts have vowed to challenge if the budget includes any "investment" pledges.

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Boehner was "pleased to have an opportunity 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."

The lunch meeting follows a meeting between Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the top-ranking Republican senator.

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