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Obama, GOP leaders talk economy, budget cuts over lunch

President Obama and Vice President Biden dine with John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, and no one leaves with a bad taste in his mouth. Topics include cutting the deficit, a free-trade agreement with South Korea and growing the economy.

February 09, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli and Michael Muskal | Washington Bureau
  • Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), center, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), left, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) speak with reporters after having lunch with President Obama at the White House on Wednesday.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), center, House Majority Whip… (Tim Sloan / AFP / Getty Images )

The top Republicans in the House of Representatives dined with President Obama on Wednesday, and the menu was dominated by talk on the economy, budget deficits, regulatory reform and trade.

Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, of California, had lunch with the president, Vice President Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Bill Daley. There were no concrete agreements, but both sides said the session was agreeable.

 “It was a very good lunch, and we were able to find enough common ground, I think, to assure the American people that we are willing to work on their behalf and willing to do it together,” Boehner, of Ohio,  told reporters after the luncheon.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that President Obama thought the meeting was “very constructive” and the parties agreed on the need to cut spending to reduce the deficit. “We should have a broad discussion with the American people about the size and scope of the problem we face in getting our fiscal house in order,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs and Boehner agreed there was a positive discussion about a free-trade agreement with South Korea and the possibility of similar pacts with Colombia and Panama. Though there were no specific agreements, the parties “agreed education continues to be one area where Democrats and  Republicans can and should work together,” Gibbs said.

The group also discussed such foreign issues as Iraq and Afghanistan, Gibbs said.

The administration is preparing its budget to be released next week, sure to be the beginning of a contentious season between the Obama administration and the new Republican majority in the House, which has pledged to make sizable cuts to bring down the deficit. Obama has proposed freezing some spending, a plan that the GOP has said does not go far enough.

“We did have a fairly robust conversation about the need for all of us to  work together to send a signal that we are serious about cutting spending,” Cantor said afterward. “We had agreement on that. I guess the particulars and details are where the disagreements may lie.”

McCarthy said the ”main portion of the entire lunch was talking about the economy and ways we could grow the economy.” The group also discussed reforms of the regulatory process ‘to unleash those shackles that government holds, especially on small business where 70% of all jobs are created.

“We looked for places where we can work together,” he said.

Memoli reported from Washington and Muskal from Los Angeles.

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