Obama Heads to Capitol Hill In Search of Deficit Deal

Mary Bruce
Obama Heads to Capitol Hill In Search of Deficit Deal
Obama Heads to Capitol Hill In Search of Deficit Deal (ABC News)

President Obama kicks off three days of rare meetings on Capitol Hill today as he attempts to convince Congress to reach a deal to rein in the nation's deficit.

Obama will make the trip up Pennsylvania Avenue this afternoon for a meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus. Over the course of this week, the president will woo Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate as he tries to cut a deal.

While in the past, the president has focused on bringing his deficit reduction message directly to the American people, he is changing tactics and engaging rank-and-file lawmakers instead.

After Congress and the White House failed to reach a deal to avert $85 billion in across-the-board sequester cuts, and just months after the bitter battle over the "fiscal cliff," the president is hoping to capitalize on a brief lull before the next fiscal deadline.

"Now we have a period where, because of the choice to let the sequester take effect, we are not now in a countdown clock situation," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explained last week. "There is an opportunity here to do what some members of Congress and leaders have said they would like to do, and we agree, and that is return to some sense of normalcy here, regular order, engage in a budget process and negotiation and debate that hopefully produces a bipartisan compromise."

Obama's outreach campaign, which began with dinner with Republican Senators last week and has been met with positive reviews, will be put to the test this week.

The president's meetings on the Hill come as Congress considers budget resolutions in both chambers.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., are both expected to release their budget blueprints for 2014 this week. The proposals, however, are expected to be far apart.

Carney said Monday that the president's discussions with lawmakers will not be budget negotiations. "I wouldn't expect that they're going to trade paper on numbers," he said. "[The president] looks forward to making clear what his policy positions are, to making clear his sincerity when it comes to his belief that we need to take action on our deficit."

The president is required by law to submit his budget to Congress no later than the first Monday in February, but Obama has yet to release his plan and the White House has not set a date for him to do so.

Also this week, Senate Democrats will introduce their bill to fund the government through the end of the year, after the House passed a version last week. Most federal agencies will run out of money March 27 if Congress doesn't act.

So could this charm offensive really work?

"I hope that this is sincere. We had a good, frank exchange. But the truth will be in the [coming] weeks as to whether or not it's a real sincere outreach to find common ground," Ryan, who had lunch privately with the president last week, said on "Fox News Sunday."

"If we're going to really get to an agreement, this is a good step," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News' "This Week." "You have to start meeting with people. You have to start developing relationships. You've got to spend a fair amount of time figuring out what we agree on first."