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Obama Says Willing to Work with GOP on Entitlements

President Barack Obama says he's willing to work with Republicans to make changes to entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare, that threaten the nation's fiscal health.

President Barack Obama News Conference
CNBC
President Barack Obama News Conference

Obama told a news conference at the White House Tuesday that the $3.73 trillion budget he sent Congress will help meet his goal of cutting the deficit in half by the end of his first term.

The budget Obama sent to Congress Monday ignores the view of his own deficit commission, which said that entitlement programs must be slashed.

Obama says he will have discussions on entitlements with lawmakers in the next few months.

Obama says he's confident changes can be made quickly on Social Security in order to avoid slashing payments and making the program stable for this generation and the next.

But he says making changes to Medicare and Medicaid will be more difficult, and said both parties must show they're serious about tackling the problems.

Obama called these entitlements and taxes "long-term drivers" of debt that will have to be reformed to bring down U.S. debt. "Everybody's going to have to give a little bit," he said.

Obama said the budget will force the government to live within its means while still investing in the future. Republicans are calling for deeper cuts, saying they want a budget that would shrink the size of government to where it was before Obama took office.

Obama also said Tuesday that U.S. lawmakers on both sides are going to have to give a little bit to find a compromise on reducing spending. Obama said he wanted corporate tax reform to keep taxes as simple and as low as possible, but he said he did not support extending high-end Bush-era tax cuts over the long-term.

White House budget director Jacob Lew kicked off the administration's defense of its proposed 2012 budget on Capitol Hill with an appearance before the House Budget Committee.

Rep. Mike Simpson spoke for most of the Republicans on the panel in saying he doesn't view the proposal—which mostly ignores the recommendations of Obama's fiscal commission—as a serious one.

"In our nation's most pressing fiscal challenges, the president has abdicated his leadership role," said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "When his own commission put forward a set of fundamental entitlement and tax reforms ... he ignored them."

Lew countered that the Obama plan is a "tough budget" filled with cuts to programs the president himself supports.

Eager to please their conservative tea party supporters, Republicans are championing $61 billion in cuts to hundreds of programs for the remaining seven months of this federal fiscal year under a bill the House planned to debate Tuesday.

AmeriCorps and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be completely erased, while deep cuts would be carved from programs for feeding poor women and children, training people for jobs and cleaning the Great Lakes.

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