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As for the key question of whether revenue might be on the table in any budget deal, Collins said she wouldn’t prejudge what should be in a package. She noted that in the past she’s voted for getting rid of tax breaks such as those enjoyed by Big Oil companies. Collins said a key issue for her would be ensuring that tax revenue goes to deficit reduction, not more spending.
Obama also called Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who recently offered up $600 billion in revenue as part of a grand bargain. Graham met last week with Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on immigration and other issues.
Graham held out hope Tuesday that a grand bargain could still occur.
“I think the president understands that the challenge for Republicans will be revenues and the challenge for Democrats will be entitlements. That’s the construct.”
And Graham praised Obama for reaching out to Republicans. “I think this is going to pay dividends for the country.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who also spoke with Obama, said he’s still hopeful there will be an agreement on entitlements and tax revisions.
“I hope that it’s a sincere effort to take advantage of this window of opportunity between now and the end of the year,” he said.
Portman said the president needs to give political cover to his own party in order to get its support for major entitlement changes. “They won’t do it on their own,” he said.
As for revenue, Portman said, “we’ll have that discussion,” but he added that raising taxes would hurt the economy.
“On the one hand, Democrats are saying cuts are bad for the economy, and on the other side, they say they want tax hikes ... that are definitely bad for the economy,” he said.
But there’s no guarantee Obama’s personal touch will move the needle on a deal.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he expects the president to talk to senators. “Frankly, I wish he’d done more of that over the years. We’ve had, all of us, very limited interaction with the president,” he said.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who hasn’t gotten a call from the president, said the calls won’t net the president any more tax increases.
“I think that our conference and House Republicans are virtually united on the idea that the $1 trillion of new revenue in the president’s health care plan ... and the $650 billion of revenue that he just got should be enough,” Blunt said.