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After meeting, hope for a deal on tax cuts

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McCain didn't attend the White House meeting, but he told "Good Morning America" on Tuesday: "What I hope that we could do is agree to the extensions of tax cuts at all levels and also reach some agreement on moving forward with the START treaty as well. I think that is a serious result that could ensue from the meeting today."

A senior administration official said the White House and Republicans were making progress toward agreement on the treaty, which would commit the United States and Russia to cutting deployed nuclear weapons by 30 percent.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has participated in negotiations over ratification of the treaty, said the administration responded late Monday to concerns that he and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) had raised.

"Could we finish? I think it's possible that we could," he said.

'Useful and frank'

GOP leaders, who have privately complained that Obama used previous meetings mainly to lecture them, praised Tuesday's session. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) called it "a useful and frank discussion." The House's top Republican, Rep. John A. Boehner (Ohio), applauded the president's outreach and said "spending more time [together] will help us find some common ground."

The meeting stretched an hour longer than planned, and it included what the White House called a "more intimate session" that aides and staffers were not permitted to attend.

Continuing the conciliatory tone he has taken since Election Day, Obama told the lawmakers that he needed to do more to reduce the partisan tone in Washington, press secretary Robert Gibbs said later. The president said he plans to hold additional talks in Washington and at Camp David with lawmakers of both parties.

"The president acknowledged he needed to do better," Gibbs said.

Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the No. 2 House Republican, said later: "I was encouraged by the president's remarks regarding his perhaps not having reached out enough to us in the last session, and that this meeting was the beginning of a series in which he hoped that we could work together in a different fashion for the benefit of the American people, given the problems that we face. "

Pre-meeting controversy

The White House hoped the meeting would demonstrate Obama's commitment to reducing partisanship in Washington, as he pledged in his 2008 campaign. Republican leaders, meanwhile, wanted to emphasize that voters gave them a mandate in November to oppose Obama's agenda.

On Monday, Obama said he hoped the meeting would serve simply as a "first step toward a new and productive working relationship" between the two parties, pointing to the "shared responsibility" both sides have now that Republicans are about to assume control of the House.

In an appeal to GOP deficit hawks, he also proposed a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers, a potential area of agreement that Republicans welcomed, saying it was one of their ideas.

"Going forward, we're going to have to make some additional very tough decisions that this town has put off for a very long time," Obama said. "And that's what this upcoming week is really about."

murrays@washpost.com baconp@washpost.com

Staff writer Walter Pincus contributed to this report.


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