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House GOP Signals Little Progress In 'Frosty' Deficit Meeting With Obama

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GOP LEADERS
AP

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans left Wednesday's meeting with President Barack Obama with no signs of seeing eye-to-eye on how to resolve the country's debt and deficit woes.

Republicans had a "very frank" and "productive" discussion with Obama on the debt limit, deficit reduction and jobs, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said after the meeting. Boehner released a statement earlier Wednesday signed by more than 150 economists backing GOP calls for spending cuts that exceed any increase in the debt limit.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he urged Obama to focus on economic growth in the debt limit debate and reiterated that tax hikes are still off the table in deficit negotiations. It is "counter-intuitive to believe that you increase taxes on those in the business entities you're expecting to create jobs," Cantor said.

Rank-and-file GOP lawmakers filtering out of the meeting had mixed responses.

Asked to describe the mood of the meeting, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) told reporters, "Frosty is the word."

Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), when asked if he would give the meeting a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, replied, "Both."

One GOP lawmaker refused to attend the meeting because he didn't want to be "lectured."

"I don't intend to spend my morning being lectured to by a president whose failed policies have put our children and grandchildren in a huge burden of debt," Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) said in a statement. "Until the President produces a responsible deficit reduction plan, I'm not going to the White House to negotiate with myself."

Some had a more positive take: Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said the meeting was "a great time," while Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said a White House visit "is always worth it."

About half a dozen Members spoke during the meeting. Several lawmakers said the most notable exchange was between Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Obama, when Ryan demanded that the president stop referring to his Medicare overhaul proposal as a voucher plan. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) later tweeted that Ryan got a standing ovation for doing so.

"They were talking about Medicare and how to properly describe that it was not a voucher plan," Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) said of their dialogue. He called it "a great exchange."

Ryan tamped down on the idea that the conversation was testy.

The GOP Medicare proposal has been "misdescribed by the president and many others," Ryan said. "So we simply described to him precisely what it is we've been proposing so ... in the future he won't mischaracterize it."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney later disputed that Obama has ever misrepresented the GOP proposal. "It is a voucher plan," Carney said during his daily briefing. "What you call it and what it is doesn't change a thing.... It is what it is."

Despite the partisan clashes, some GOP lawmakers said the meeting helped Republicans feel heard by Obama.

"Any day Democrats and Republicans are having a dialogue is a good day," said House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

Murphy said the fact that everyone was in the same room together was a good step, even though the bottom line is that many will be looking to Obama to reach common ground with them going forward.

"I'm a psychologist," Murphy said. "Let me just say I think it was good for them emotionally. Good group therapy."

But, he added, "We've got a long way to go."