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Senate Republicans unmoved by Obama visit: 'We were props'

President Obama hoped to reach out to Senate Republicans in a meeting Tuesday. But 'we simply have a large difference of opinion,' one said.

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The president told the conference that the Gulf oil disaster should “heighten our sense of urgency to hasten the development of new, clean energy sources,” according to the White House Press Office.

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On immigration, Republicans told the president that he could not move comprehensive reform without first securing the nation’s borders. “I know there's some feeling on the other side that if the border is secured, then conservatives would feel less likely to support comprehensive reform,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, the Senate Republican whip. “But from our perspective, whether that's true or not – and I don't think it is – it's important to secure the border simply because of all of the reasons why that is important, and that, ironically, securing the border will make it easier, not more difficult to later on get comprehensive reform.”

After the meeting, an administration official confirmed that the president will be requesting the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border, as well as $500 million in supplemental funds for enhanced border protection and law enforcement activities. The National Guard will provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support until Customs and Border Protection can recruit and train additional officers and agents to serve on the border.

"While I appreciate the president’s acknowledgment that his administration has done too little to secure our border, his proposal still comes up short," said Sen. John Cornyn [R] of Texas, in a statement. "Temporary fixes are no solution to long-term challenges.” Senate Republicans want to move border security amendments as part of a $59 billion war supplemental bill before the Senate this week.

These presidential meetings solely with opposition lawmakers are unusual and relatively recent, according to the Senate library. President Obama met with the House GOP caucus in February 2009. President George W. Bush met with the Democrats at a retreat in 2001.

“Obviously, there were continued differences on some of these issues. But, the President believes that direct dialogue is better than posturing, and he was pleased to have the opportunity to share views with the conference,” said the White House Press Office.