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Obama Tells Senate Democrats To Unify In Deficit Fight


First Posted: 05/11/11 09:06 PM ET Updated: 07/11/11 06:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama told Senate Democrats Wednesday that they need to get on the same page as they tangle with Republicans over deficit reduction and raising the debt limit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) emerged from an hour-and-a-half long meeting with Obama and Senate Democrats signaling that the president's message got through.

"We are singing from the same hymnbook on the same page," Reid told reporters at the White House. He said the meeting with Obama was "excellent" and that it "ended on a very high note without any question we're together."

The Nevada Democrat's assurances of party unity come, however, on the same day that Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) took to the Senate floor to decry their party's attempt to strip tax breaks from top oil companies as a way to bring down the deficit. Both senators hail from oil-producing states. It was unclear if either attended the White House meeting.

The president's huddle with Senate Democrats is the first of several meetings he plans to hold with different factions of Congress in an effort to bridge differences on deficit and debt matters. Obama is meeting with Senate Republicans on Thursday and, in the coming weeks, with House Democrats and Republicans.

Reid said there is "no question" that lawmakers will have to work on a bipartisan basis to make progress. He called on GOP lawmakers to avoid drawing lines in the sand during negotiations, particularly on the issue of cutting tax subsidies for oil companies. Some Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), have signaled support for that tack.

"Why couldn't we start there with a show of good faith," Reid said, and "just acknowledge that the $21 billion that is given to those companies" is not necessary.

Reid said Democrats are going to have to hold their noses and make cuts that are "not easy," but the upside is they can "look back at the wonderful things we've accomplished over the past two and a half years."

"The president was very good at running through each of those," he added.

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