Obama tells Dems to be flexible in budget talks

May 11, 2011 - 7:13 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama told Senate Democrats on Wednesday not to adopt unyielding positions in budget talks with Republicans and to stay unified even as more painful spending cuts lie ahead before lawmakers and the White House can reach a deal on deficit reduction.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., gave details to reporters at the White House after Obama met with nearly all Senate Democrats. The president is to meet Thursday with Senate Republicans.

"He believes we have no choice but to work this out. He made that very clear to us," said Reid.

Reid said Obama told them not to do what he contended Republicans have done: "Drawing these lines in the sands. We can't do that."

Republicans have said taxes are off the table. Reid chided them for that and urged them to embrace a proposal stripping the five biggest oil companies of tax breaks worth $2 billion a year. Reid said that would be a "show of good faith."

Reid did not get specific on spending cuts but emphasized that "all options are open."

The president also made clear he would oppose any kind of global spending cap that would force significant reductions in Medicare and Social Security, according to a person in the room who spoke anonymously to describe the private meeting. Such an across-the-board cap on spending has been proposed by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

The president's meetings come as bipartisan negotiators led by Vice President Joe Biden work to find spending reductions as Republicans hold out for big cuts before they'll agree to raise the federal debt limit. Biden is hosting his third session on Thursday.

Obama is to meet next week with House Democrats and House Republicans.