Republicans used their closed-door meeting with President Barack Obama on Wednesday to make the case for deep cuts to federal spending and entitlement programs as well as to complain about what they see as efforts by the White House to demagogue the GOP, House leaders said.
By and large, Republicans had a positive attitude after leaving the discussion, which focused on the looming debt limit fight.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters the meeting provided an "opportunity, clearly, for our members to communicate directly with the president about our ideas."
For his part, Boehner said he told the president, "This is the moment. This is the window of opportunity where we can work on this on our terms" before the fiscal crisis spirals out of control.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also called the meeting a "unique opportunity where the entire conference got to lay out what they're hearing across the country," while Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Obama appears to be open to GOP demands to include spending cuts in the debt limit increase.
"What I heard from this president is that he wanted to sit down and find real cuts now" and to address entitlement reform, McCarthy said.
House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas), however, said, "What we didn't hear from the president is a specific plan of his to deal with the debt crisis that actually can be scored by the Congressional Budget Office."
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — who has come under fire from Democrats over his budget's overhaul of Medicare — used the meeting to plead with Obama to stop "demagoguing" the issue.
"If we demagogue each other at the leadership level, we're never going to take on this debt. ... Then we're not applying the kind of political leadership we need to get this economy growing," Ryan said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.