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Obama, GOP leaders work on map for days ahead

President Obama weathered Democratic losses this fall but also spent time passing out candy and visiting "The Daily Show."

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"The million-dollar divide creates a very bright line and makes it very clear: You're either supporting multimillionaires and billionaires or you're supporting the middle class," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

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Republicans said they would look for signals that the president has digested his party's landslide losses on Nov. 2 and is willing to change his approach to passing legislation.

Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said the incoming speaker would urge Obama to support a permanent extension of the expiring tax cuts, along with immediate cuts in federal spending, starting with pending legislation that Congress must approve by the end of the year to keep the government operating. House GOP leaders advocate reductions to fiscal 2008 levels, a move that would force agencies to make deep budget cuts immediately.

"We hope the president is listening to the American people and is willing to work with us on their priorities," said Steel.

Also up for discussion was the increasingly contentious U.S.-Russia New START treaty. The president has said that ratifying the nuclear arms reduction pact - which requires 67 votes in the Senate - is a top priority. But one of the participants at Tuesday's meeting was Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the No. 2 Senate Republican and Obama's chief adversary on the matter. Kyl was expected to insist that the Senate delay a vote on the treaty until January, when the new Congress is sworn in.

kornbluta@washpost.com murrays@washpost.com

Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.

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