President Barack Obama sought common ground with Republicans on Tuesday on his top policy priorities of job creation and deficit reduction, winning hints of support in both areas but a rebuke on healthcare reform.
Obama, a Democrat, met with congressional leaders from both parties at the White House in an effort to boost his economic agenda after the recent Massachusetts election resulted in the loss of his party's super majority in the U.S. Senate.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Obama said it may take a series of incremental steps to get a jobs package passed in Congress quickly.
I think that it's ... realistic for us to get a package moving quickly that may not include all of the things I think need to be done, Obama said.
It may be that that first package builds some trust and confidence that Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill can work together, he said.
Obama said there were areas that both parties could agree on such as eliminating capital gains taxes for small businesses. He said he hoped all sides could agree on a mechanism to get more capital for community banks that are lending to small businesses.
The House of Representatives passed a $155 billion jobs bill in December but the Senate has yet to act.
Senate Democratic leaders unveiled a set of job-creating ideas last week and said they would solicit Republican input before moving ahead with legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hoped to introduce a bill on Monday and pass it by the end of the week but he has been delayed by a record snowstorm that has prevented many lawmakers from coming to work.
Frankly, it is not ready yet, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after the meeting with Obama, referring to a jobs bill. Most of my members have not seen it yet. We're certainly open to it and ... there is a chance we can move this forward on a bipartisan basis.
In one potential sign of conciliation, U.S. House Republican leader John Boehner said the party was mulling appointing members to Obama's deficit commission.
We're considering it, he told reporters after the meeting with Obama.
Obama has said he will issue an executive order to set up a fiscal commission to study options on spending and taxes after lawmakers failed to create a congressional panel to address the issue.
Republican leaders, however, did not budge on Obama's plans to reform the healthcare industry, calling on Democrats to scrap current versions of the bills and start over.
(Additional reporting by Alister Bull, Ross Colvin, Steve Holland, Matt Spetalnick and Andy Sullivan)