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Obama Enters GOP Lion’s Den, Answers Critics

BALTIMORE — Even as House Republican leaders tipped their hats to President Barack Obama for attending their annual retreat here Friday, they made clear they are unhappy with his agenda and what they see as false promises of bipartisanship.“I thought the dialogue went very well,— Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a press conference following the president’s speech.Republicans grilled Obama on his administration’s handing of the economy and health care reform for much of the president’s 90-minute visit — 20 minutes longer then the White House had initially planned. Obama began his prepared remarks by outlining areas he says he and Republicans can find common ground, but as the question-and-answer period got under way, his tone turned more partisan. “If you were to listen to the [health care] debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot,— Obama said in response to a question by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Obama’s appearance at the Baltimore retreat, which began Thursday and ends Saturday, comes just two days after his first State of the Union address, in which he made yet another appeal for bipartisanship. House Republicans have been nearly united in their opposition to much of Obama’s agenda in his first year, including health care reform, climate change and the economy.On Friday, Obama repeatedly defended the Democrats’ $787 billion stimulus plan, which received no Republican votes when it passed the House a year go and called out GOP Members who had taken credit for stimulus-funded projects in their districts. “A lot of you have gone to appear at ribbon cuttings for the same projects that you voted against,— he said. Obama acknowledged that both parties are responsible for the partisan bickering and finger-pointing in Congress; he vowed to meet more regularly with House Republican and Democratic leadership. “I think both sides can take some blame for a sour climate on Capitol Hill,— he said. “What I can do maybe to help is to bring Republican and Democratic leadership together on a more regular basis with me.— Obama added, “That, I think, a failure on my part, is to try to foster better communications even if there is disagreement.—

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