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Obama Rallies Support As Budget Gets Tweaked


And soon after he finished that conversation yesterday, Senator Conrad went to see the man whose budget he's trying to restrain. President Obama met with his former Democratic colleagues in the Senate. NPR's David Welna has more.

WELNA: Even before the House and Senate budget panels formally unveiled their own versions of the president's budget, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag was on the phone with reporters insisting these documents were not essentially different from the president's.

Mr. PETER ORSAG (White House Budget Director): They are from the same family as the president's budget. The resolutions may not be identical twins to what the president submitted, but they are certainly brothers that look an awful lot alike.

WELNA: The president himself looked like a man in a big hurry as he arrived for lunch with Senate Democrats.

(Soundbite of shouting)

WELNA: As he left 45 minutes later, the president was only a bit more forthcoming when a reporter asked him how the meeting with the Democrats had gone.

President BARACK OBAMA: Oh, it went great.

WELNA: Indiana's Evan Bayh, who was at the meeting, seemed reassured by what he heard from the president. Bayh heads a recently formed group of centrist Democrats who've expressed misgivings about the budget's huge deficits.

Senator EVAN BAYH (Democrat, Indiana): The tenor was very cooperative. It was non-confrontational, and he was very realistic. He said, look, these are tough financial times and it's going to be difficult to strike the right balance.

WELNA: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said President Obama had made his fellow Democrats feel content and inspired, and Reid expressed no doubts about the prospects for the plan Budget Chairman Conrad has drawn up.

Senator HARRY REID: (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): I'm confident that Senator Conrad will get the budget out of his committee quickly and that the full Senate will pass his budget next week.

WELNA: The top Republican on the Budget Committee, New Hampshire's Judd Gregg, acknowledged that Conrad's budget is likely to pass in the Senate since it's not subject to a filibuster. He belittled the savings in that revised budget, though, calling them the product of old budgeting gimmicks. But Gregg did say this is a budget that matters much more than most.

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): And this is not an arcane exercise this time. This is not an inside-the-Beltway exercise. The president has laid out a blueprint to move this government dramatically to the left, to significantly increase the role of the government in American society at all sorts of levels, and to dramatically increase its cost and its tax burden and its debt burden on the American people.

WELNA: The House budget panel's top Republican raised a similar red flag about that chamber's budget. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan...

Representative PAUL RYAN (Republican, Wisconsin): With this budget the president and the Democratic majority are attempting very quickly, and rather openly, nothing less than the third and great final wave of government expansion, building on the Great Society and the New Deal.

WELNA: So while some doubting Democrats may end up voting for these budgets, few Republicans seem inclined to do the same.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

MONTAGNE: You just heard Republican Paul Ryan speak of a third great wave of government expansion. We'll have an interview with him tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.