WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s meeting with a restive and resistant House Republican majority on Wednesday underscored their deep divisions over fiscal policy as both sides acknowledged that an overarching budget compromise was in doubt despite a new push by the White House.
One day after Republicans rolled out a detailed proposal aimed at eliminating the federal deficit through steep cuts and repealing many of the president’s accomplishments, Obama told them pointedly in a rare visit that their highest fiscal priority was not his.
“Our biggest problems in the next 10 years are not deficits," the president told them, according to accounts from the meeting, bluntly rejecting an idea that has become Republican fiscal dogma.
That left many Republicans, who are resisting the president’s calls to close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy, wondering where they could find room for compromise.
“Well, he doesn’t want to balance the budget in 10 years, and he wants tax increases, and he wants new spending," Rep. Darrell Issa of California said as he left the meeting early. “But other than that, we’re close."
Wednesday’s hourlong discussion at the Capitol coincided with the release of a new budget by Senate Democrats that adds $100 billion in new stimulus spending and would impose higher taxes on large corporations and wealthy Americans. Together, both events illustrated anew just how difficult it will be to resolve the issues that have split the Congress for years and created a perpetual cycle of deadline-driven, short-term fiscal policy. Given the gap in the budget approaches, the president conceded as much in an interview with ABC News that ran on Wednesday before he went to the Capitol for the second consecutive day.
“Ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide," said Obama, who will meet today with Senate Republicans and House Democrats. “It may be that ideologically, if their position is, ‘We can’t do any revenue,’ or, ‘We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,’ if that’s the position, then we’re probably not going to be able to get a deal."