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Obama, GOP leaders agree on sandwiches, disagree on deficit

May 16, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • President Obama holds up a hoagie he purchased after visiting Taylor Gourmet, a sandwich restaurant, in Washington.
President Obama holds up a hoagie he purchased after visiting Taylor Gourmet,… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- At least they agreed on the sandwiches.

President Obama and GOP congressional leaders emerged from a lunch meeting Wednesday to report they still don’t agree on a strategy for deficit reduction, but the hoagies were tasty.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the president used the meeting, the first since February, to urge House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to take up his short list of legislative priorities aimed at the economy.

But the conversation veered into more contentious territory. Carney said Boehner raised the issue of the debt ceiling, a legal limit that will need to be raised before the end of the year to allow the government to continue to pay its bills.

Boehner announced Tuesday the House would again refuse to raise the limit without an agreement for another round of significant spending cuts – signaling a possible replay of the August battle that nearly led to a U.S. default.

Obama told the speaker he did not want another showdown, Carney said.

“And the president's point was we should not hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage to one party's political agenda,” Carney said.

The speaker replied: “As long as I’m around here, I’m not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt,” according to a Boehner aide.

The back-and-forth puts both leaders in nearly the same position as early last summer, before a long and ugly battle, failed negotiations, plummeting approval ratings and eventually a deal that raised the limit in return for spending cuts and another attempt at a larger deal. That attempt later failed.

 Boehner’s office said talk of the debt ceiling fight took up the “bulk” of the conversation, which also included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. The leaders were served sandwiches from a local hoagie shop, Taylor Gourmet. Obama had held a roundtable at the shop earlier in the day.

Carney suggested the discussion, however brief, about the president’s “to-do list” was constructive.

“The tone was congenial, the discussion was productive, the sandwiches were delicious,” Carney said.

Boehner’s office agreed, saying the speaker “was very pleased” with the sandwiches.

Original source: Obama, GOP leaders agree on sandwiches, disagree on deficit

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