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Obama offers budget dialogue to Republicans

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US President Barack Obama Wednesday mounted a fresh effort to dislodge a long-running budget and policy deadlock with top Republicans, as news emerged of several planned bipartisan meetings.

Top Republican Senator Mitch McConnell announced that Obama would attend the Republican Party's weekly Senate policy lunch at the US Capitol for the first time since 2010 on Thursday, March 14.

And the White House said Obama, who appears to disdain glad handing with lawmakers, would make a new overture to some Republican senators by inviting them to dinner at the Jefferson hotel in Washington on Wednesday night.

Reports said the group could include Republican veterans like John McCain, who lost the 2008 election to Obama, and senators Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte and Tom Coburn.

With Washington shut down by a late winter storm, however, officials cautioned that the meeting could be cancelled if the weather worsens.

Obama has recently telephoned several Republicans seen as most open to dialogue on the deep ideological rift in Washington over taxes and spending, which triggered an $85 billion dollar austerity hit last Friday.

But though the dialogue with Republicans may augur a change of tone, there were no signs it would lead to any imminent breakthrough.

And Obama's main challenge in advancing legislation on the budget and other priorities, including gun control and immigration reform, lies with the conservative Republican caucus in the House of Representatives.

Republicans refuse to agree to any new tax revenue increases to cut the deficit, demanding instead significant cuts to government programs, while Obama insists on a "balanced" approach of closed tax loopholes and targeted spending cuts.

Still, McConnell, leader of minority Republicans in the Senate, said that he appreciated that Obama had accepted his recommendation to hear from all his party's members.

"We have numerous challenges facing the country and Republicans have offered the president serious solutions to shrink Washington spending and grow the economy," McConnell said.

"And we will have an opportunity to discuss them with the president at the lunch."

col/jm

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130306/obama-offers-budget-dialogue-republicans-0