President Obama went to Capitol Hill today to make a personal appeal to Republicans to support his economic stimulus plan, but he arrived just hours after GOP leaders had urged members to reject the bill unless there were major alterations.
As Obama ended his day with Republican lawmakers, the Treasury Department said today that it had distributed another $386 million to 23 banks in 16 states Friday. They were the first awards from the $700 billion federal bailout fund since Obama took office a week ago.
"He wants to hear their ideas. If there are good ideas, and I think he assumes there will be, that we will look at those ideas," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Obama succeeded in convincing Democrats today to drop a provision in the bill that would expand family planning funding, something Republicans had objected to. But deleting the provision did not make Republicans sound more willing to vote for the bill.
The president arrived at the House about 12:30 p.m. with an entourage that included Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who is a former Republican congressman, and top economic adviser Larry Summers.
"I would love to not have to spend this money," the president told the Republican House members, one person who was present told ABC News. But he cited the continuing cascade of lost jobs as evidence that the economy is still deteriorating.
The president stopped as he left the House more than an hour later and went to meet with Senate Republicans.
Obama is hoping to boost Republican support for the plan, which is so strongly opposed by the GOP that party aides say privately they expect fewer than 10 House Republicans to vote for it.
The Democrats, who control Congress, have sufficient votes to pass the bill when it comes to the floor Wednesday. Obama hopes to be able to sign it into law by mid-February.
But Obama is also hoping to make good on his campaign pledge for a new bipartisan atmosphere in Washington. That bipartisan spirit took a shot today from the pre-emptive strike by Republican leaders.
After Obama left the House, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he believed Obama was "sincere in wanting to hear our ideas."
Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana said they were "grateful for the outreach from the White House, but as grateful as we are, we've told the president the House Democrats have completely ignored" his call for cooperation.
Just hours before Obama arrived, however, Boehner told Republicans during a private caucus meeting that the $825 billion House version of the bill should not be supported by Republicans without major changes.
"Unless the speaker agrees to make changes, congressional Democrats should not count on our support," a Boehner press aide told ABC News.
One of the Republicans complaints was that the bill contained funds to expand family planning funds for low-income families.