Grand Bargain on Deficit a Long Shot

Obama faces a lack of trust among GOP members on Capitol Hill.

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President Obama is pushing the Senate to move forward on gun legislation.

Prospects for a grand bargain to cut the deficit are remote even though President Obama has declared that making such a deal is one of his top priorities this year, Republican strategists say.

"He's doing what he should have been doing years ago," notes Frank Donatelli, chairman of the GOPAC conservative political action committee, referring to Obama's recent outreach toward Republican legislators. "Better late than never. But the question is whether he's bringing something to the table worth talking about."

"He holds out hope for a grand bargain but the train has already left the station on that," adds Donatelli, who was White House political director for President Ronald Reagan.

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Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who was among 12 GOP senators who dined privately and talked policy with Obama last week, told NBC'S Meet the Press: "I think he's genuinely reaching out. But, you know, you've got a lot of scabs and sores on people, and it's going to take a while for that to heal."

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President Obama is pushing the Senate to move forward on gun legislation.

In a deal several weeks ago, Obama got some of the tax increases on the wealthy that he had been seeking. But since then, he has called for more tax hikes and he has repeated his opposition to the big spending cuts, especially in expensive entitlement programs, that Republicans have been urging.

This has deepened the level of mistrust toward Obama on the GOP side, Donatelli tells me.

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And there won't be any more secret negotiations, Donatelli predicts.

House Speaker John Boehner went that route with Obama many months ago, and it failed to cement a deal. The secrecy also led to resentment among rank-and-file Republicans in the House that Boehner was shutting off their input, and he doesn't want to stir up such resentment again.

Obama advisers say the president understands the difficulty of reaching a grand bargain but he thinks it's still worth the effort.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.