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Obama Parries With House GOP on Budget, Immigration

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Obama arrives at the Capitol for a meeting with House Republicans on Wednesday, accompanied by House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving.

When the president announced in the middle of the meeting that white smoke had been seen at the Vatican signifying a new pope Rep. Billy Long of Missouri seized the occasion. Billy just blurted out, as Billy does, Does that mean well have tours at the White House? and it broke the place up and even the president laughed at that, Nebraskas Lee Terry said. Obama reportedly replied that tours of the Vatican were still available.

Other lawmakers said they were suspicious of Obamas having their best interests at heart on immigration changes, noting that he has a goal of a Democratic takeover of the House.

I think it would be an extremely foolish thing for Republicans to put 8 million new Democrats on a path to voting, Steve King of Iowa said.

Other members said that the president and his staff have had so little contact with the rank and file that it will take more than one appearance at the Capitol to overcome four years of distrust. Terry said hes still never spoken to the president, couldnt name anyone on the White Houses legislative staff and sometimes doesnt get his letters answered.

Joe L. Barton of Texas said that the president was long on grand vision and often falls short in sending specific legislative proposals to Congress.

He is not into that, Barton said.

Mike D. Rogers of Alabama reported that the president diplomatically said no to a balanced budget, explaining that eliminating the deficit is not his priority. Instead, the president said he is worried that the deep spending cuts required to balance the budget would slow the nations economic recovery.

The final questioner, Georgias Tom Price, engaged in an exchange with Obama about whether Republicans can trust Obama, alluding to a recent National Journal story that quoted an anonymous White House official calling Obamas outreach to Republicans a joke.

Price also pressed Obama on when he would be issuing his budget, which is expected two months late around April 8. Price said he thought Obama was holding his budget up to launch political attacks on Congress plans. And he noted that the law required the president to go first.

Obama will be back on the Hill on Thursday meeting with Senate Republicans and House Democrats. He met with Senate Democrats on Tuesday.

Humberto Sanchez, Jonathan Strong and David M. Drucker contributed to this report.

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