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For Obama and GOP leaders, just meeting is a bipartisan accomplishment

President Obama met with GOP leaders at the White House Tuesday. The gathering appeared long enough for little else but pleasantries – though, in the current climate, that's no small thing.

By Staff Writer / November 30, 2010

President Obama talks with Rep. Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia at the conclusion of a meeting with Republican and Democratic congressional leadership in the White House Tuesday. Listening at right are Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky, Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, and Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada.

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The much anticipated White House meeting between President Obama and bipartisan congressional leaders has finally taken place. The president called it “productive.” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called it “a useful and frank discussion.” Both Mr. Obama and likely new House speaker John Boehner (R) spoke of finding common ground.

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Over the hour, there seemed to be enough time just to air the various topics of concern, starting with the soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia that Obama wants ratified before Congress adjourns.

On Topic A, taxes, Obama appointed his Treasury secretary and budget director to negotiate with the congressional Republicans to break through what he called a “logjam” on the issue before the end of the year, when tax rates are scheduled to rise. Republicans want to extend the tax cuts permanently at all levels. The Democrats want to retain only those for families making up to $250,000.

“There was broad agreement that we need to work to get that resolved before the end of the year,” Obama said. But, he added, “there's still differences about how to get there.”

On the START treaty, which needs to be ratified by the Senate to go into effect, Obama has faced a significant GOP roadblock, which continued into Tuesday’s meeting. Senator McConnell argued afterward that other matters needed to be settled first, including the tax issue and funding to keep the federal government operational. He said all 42 Senate Republicans agreed they could consider the treaty “if there’s time left” after addressing the other issues.

If the START debate is pushed into the new Congress, Obama will need more Republican votes than he would now, since the Democrats lost six Senate seats in the midterms.

No cocktails and dinner, please

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