from The Hill –
President Obama said his priority is to prevent an economic slowdown — not to produce a 10-year balanced budget — during a closed-door meeting Wednesday with House Republicans.
Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) asked Obama about the budget, questioning whether he would “commit to a 10-year balanced budget” according to Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.).
“The president tactfully said ‘That’s not my priority, my priority is not slowing the recovery down and the long-term economic health of the country,’ ” Rogers said.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday offered a 10-year budget for House Republicans that would reduce spending by $5.7 trillion and balance the budget in 10 years. Republicans have criticized the White House for not yet releasing a budget this year.
About the only news that Obama brought to House Republicans, multiple lawmakers said, was the announcement that there was a new pope.
While billions outside the closed-door meeting learned through television about the historic selection, House Republicans learned from the president.
“We have white smoke,” Obama told them more than halfway through the meeting, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said.
Lawmakers applauded, and then Rep. Billy Long (R-Miss.) drew laughs when he yelled out, “Does that mean that you’re going to open up the White House for tours?”
Obama earned a standing ovation from Republicans when he entered the meeting, the second of four sessions the president is having on Capitol Hill with House and Senate Republicans and Democrats.
House GOP lawmakers have greeted the president with a standing ovation every time they’ve met with a president, Rogers said. “I don’t care which president, we respect the office,” he said.
Obama was expected to address his congressional agenda with Republicans, including an effort to reach a “grand bargain” deficit reduction deal. It’s the first time Obama has met with the full House GOP conference in nearly two years.
One lawmaker said Obama was also asked about a pending decision by the administration on whether to give approval for construction of a pipeline that would transport oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast.
Obama “indicated” that there would be a decision on the Keystone pipeline soon, according to Rep. John Carter (R-Texas).
Leaving the meeting, a smiling Obama spoke briefly of the Vatican’s election of a pope, saying “we look forward to hearing about it.”
Of the meeting, Obama was terse. “It was good. I enjoyed it,” he said. “It was useful.”