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Obama fails to sway GOP on tax increase in debt reduction plan

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By USA Today
Thursday, March 14, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama wrapped up a series of meetings with Congress on Thursday, the latest phase in a reach-out-to-Republicans effort marked by stark differences over taxes, the budget and other issues.

Senate Republicans who spoke with the president said they appreciated the visit, but repeated their opposition to new taxes in any debt reduction plan.

“After today's meeting, it is clear to me that balancing our budget and cutting bloated Washington spending are not President Obama's top priorities,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Obama aides said the president will continue to talk to the GOP about a deal that is balanced between spending cuts and the elimination of tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy.

Obama wants an immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already in the United States. Some Republicans describe such a pathway as amnesty for lawbreakers.

“The president understands that these are tough issues,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Obama had separate meetings with Senate Republicans and House Democrats. During the previous two days, Obama spoke on Capitol Hill with groups of House Republicans and Senate Democrats. Last week featured presidential meals and phone calls with various Republicans.

Participants described the sessions as pleasant and informative, but with no breakthroughs on some of the basic disputes — particularly taxes.

Obama naturally found more common ground in his meetings with House and Senate Democrats, but even among the president's rank-and-file there remains concern the president may be willing to negotiate further on reforming entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security than many Democrats can support.

In previous unsuccessful negotiations with Republicans, Obama has been willing to consider proposals including raising the Medicare eligibility age and changing the way Social Security benefits are calculated.

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