ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
President Obama declared the nearly two-hour bipartisan meeting at the White House today “a good start,” to a “new dialogue” that he said he hopes will “break though the noise and produce real gains.”
“I thought it was a productive meeting,” Obama said from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as Republicans were still speaking back on the Hill. “I thought that people came to it with a spirit of trying to work together, and I think it's a good start as we move forward.”
The meeting today in the Roosevelt Room of the White House was the first chance the president and leaders from both parties have gathered formally since the midterm elections. The discussion today surrounded on the agenda items that need to get done in the weeks before Congress leaves town before the holiday.
First – on the Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, the president said that there was “broad agreement” that they need to work to get this resolved before the end of the year.
“Now there are still differences about how to get there,” Obama admitted. “I believe and the other Democrats who - in the room believe that this would add an additional $700 billion to our debt in the next 10 years. And I continue to believe that it would be unwise and unfair, particularly at a time when we’re contemplating deep budget cuts that require broad sacrifice.”
The president announced that he has appointed Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and OMB Director Jack Lew to work with representatives from both parties to break what he called a “logjam” on this issue in the days ahead.
“I've asked the leaders to appoint members to help in this negotiation process. They agreed to do that. Now that process is beginning right away, and we expect to get some answers back over the next couple of days about how we can accomplish our key goal, which is to make sure the economy continues to grow and we are putting people back to work.”
Additionally, the president ticked through the other issues discussed at today’s meeting, including the work of the bipartisan deficit reduction commission, working to keep the government running this year, and unemployment insurance, with expires today.
On the ratification of the new START treaty, one of the president’s top priorities, he said it was discussed but did not indicate any progress was made.
“I reminded the room that this treaty has been vetted for seven months now; it's gone through 18 hearings; it has support from senators of both parties; it has broad bipartisan support from national security advisers and secretaries of Defense and secretaries of State from previous administrations, both Democrat and Republican; and that it's absolutely essential to our national security. We need to get it done.”
Going forward the president said that “none of this is going to be easy,” and that after the nation has “two parties for a reason.”
“There are real philosophical differences, deeply held principles to which each party holds. And although the atmosphere in today's meeting was extremely civil, there's no doubt that those differences are going to remain no matter how many meetings we have,” Obama said.
The president noted that he hopes to have more bipartisan summits sometime soon, including possibly a summit at Camp David, especially since he said he learned that in all of his 28 years in Congress Harry Reid has never been to Camp David before.
“I appreciate the tenor of the conversations. I think it will actually yield results before the end of the year, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue in the months ahead."
The president noted that his statement today, as well as yesterday in the Eisenhower Executive Office building, outside of the White House was because there are hundreds of volunteers decorating the White House for the holidays.