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Obama to meet GOP leaders: Should Democrats be worried?

President Obama will meet with GOP leaders from the House and Senate Tuesday for the first time since Election 2010. Some Democrats worry that he could be too willing to compromise.

By Staff writer / November 30, 2010

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R) of Ohio gestures during a news conference of newly-elected House GOP leaders for the 112th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 18.

Yuri Gripas/Reuters

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Washington

President Obama meets Tuesday with Republican leaders for the first time since midterm elections flipped control of the House and gave the minority GOP a stronger hand in the Senate.

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For a White House that has kept GOP leaders at an unusually long arm's length, it’s a moment to recalibrate relations – a prospect that has many congressional Democrats on edge. For an administration that has spent its first two years trying to build Democratic supermajorities in the Senate, the question is now whether Mr. Obama should play ball with the Republicans – and how much he should compromise.

“I think this is the beginning of a new relationship with leaders in the House and the Senate,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs at a briefing on Monday. “I think this is the beginning of a longer-term conversation about how we get to compromise on issues that we know are important for the American people."

The White House agenda for the meeting focuses on extending Bush-era tax cuts, now set to expire at the end of the year, for middle-class Americans, as well as moving to swift Senate ratification of a nuclear-arms pact with Russia, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

The Republican leaders, meanwhile, will focus on extending the tax cuts for all Americans, including the top income brackets. “We hope the president is willing to work with us on the American people's priorities," says Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner.

Rocky relations

Obama has had rocky relations with Republican leaders since the start of his presidency.

To Republican eyes, Obama got off to a bad start during the runup to his first meeting with the House Republican conference in January 2009. The president pointedly came to a Capitol Hill meeting with the House GOP caucus to win support for his stimulus plan. This despite the fact that, just hours before, Mr. Boehner publicly opposed the plan.

Nor did relations improve after the president offered to speak to the House GOP caucus at a retreat in Baltimore in February 2010. He asked that the meeting be televised, then publicly blasted Republicans for not helping solve the nation’s problems.

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