Deficit reduction remains the GOP battle cry. House Republicans recently agreed to postpone a showdown on the debt ceiling by three months but say they will use other coming budget deadlines to extract reductions in social programs from reluctant Democrats.
"Spending has raged out of control and America's debt has ballooned," House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in her response to Obama's speech Monday. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell promised Obama a "fresh start," but reminded him of "the transcendent challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt."
The Republicans' highest-ranking official, House Speaker John Boehner, used a Lincoln quote to offer Obama an olive branch. The nation's leaders, Boehner said at a Capitol luncheon, were assembled to "renew the old appeal to better angels."
Obama on Monday seemed to signal a willingness to work with Republicans, couched in a reminder that he won the last election and thus can't be expected to yield very much.
Boehner and his fellow Republicans this week will craft the next legislation in the deficit-spending confrontations. It will be the first of many tests of whether the nation's "better angels" can break through a barrier of bitter standoffs.
EDITORS' NOTE — Charles Babington covers Congress and national politics for The Associated Press.
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