Obama reaching out to Republican lawmakers on budget agreement

President Obama is hoping to win over Republican lawmakers on a budget deal through personal appeals, placing a series of phone calls this week in hopes of rallying bipartisan support.

On Tuesday, Obama phoned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a key conservative voice in the upper chamber. Graham told NBC News he was "very encouraged" by the brief conversation, a sign the president's outreach efforts to top Republicans could be gaining traction.

Graham also told reporters that he would be open to increased revenues — a key aspect of the president's proposal — if it was accompanied by a significant overhaul of entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Earlier this week, Obama spoke with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the former White House budget director under President George W. Bush, who is considered among his party's top financial experts. Obama also reportedly spoke with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key centrist vote, along with budget hawks like Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama hoped to work with legislators "interested in common-sense solutions."

"The president is engaging with lawmakers in the hope that we can move forward in a balanced way, because he believes and knows that there are Republicans who agree with the vast majority of the American people -- with the majority of Republicans in the country, with the majority of independents in the country -- that we should do this in a balanced way, that we should include revenues, as well as entitlement cuts, spending cuts, when we further reduce our deficit, and so he's looking for solutions," Carney said.

Carney also hinted that the president's more aggressive tact may be borne out of frustration with Republican leadership in Congress.

"You know, thus far we have not seen from the leadership, an interest in taking up balance as an approach to dealing with our fiscal challenges," Carney said.

The feeling is likely mutual. Following the "fiscal-cliff" negotiations in January, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pledged that he would no longer engage in one-on-one negotiations with the White House. Last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters her was "not interested" in last-minute negotiations to avert the sequester.

“Read my lips: I’m not interested in an 11th-hour negotiation," McConnell said.

Obama has not spoken to McConnell in his latest push, although he did host the Senate leader at the White House on Friday to discuss the sequester. But the Republicans who have been contacted have seemed generally positive when discussing the administration's effort.

"It's a start," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

A spokesman for Collins echoed the optimism.

"Sen. Collins said they had a good discussion about the need for a bipartisan agreement on several critical issues including the unsustainable, $16.6 trillion debt and sequestration," Kelley said. "She encouraged further discussions of a substantive nature."

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