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Ryan: Obama outreach not ‘terribly charming’

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday said he wasn’t sure if President Obama’s so-called “charm offensive” was a genuine attempt to reach out to Republicans in Congress.

“It didn’t come across as terribly charming to me, but look, we’re used to this,” Ryan said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

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The House Budget Committee chairman said Republicans would be watching Obama’s actions closely to gauge the sincerity of his outreach.

“The question is, is he going to go on the campaign trail and start campaigning against us like he has been since the election? You know, is the so-called charm offensive a temporary poll-driven political calculation, or was it a sincere conversion to try and bring people together and start communicating? I hope that’s the case,” he said.

Obama has focused on congressional outreach since the battle over the sequester ended earlier this month. Last week, he took a dozen Republican senators out to dinner to discuss the opportunity to craft a grand deficit bargain. Obama also met with Ryan at the White House last week, and went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to address the weekly Senate Democratic lunch.

Obama will meet with House Republicans today, the second of four trips to the Capitol this week.

Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate, said he was unsure, but hopeful, that the president would follow up on their lunch meeting.

“I think we had a very frank conversation, we were really candid with each other,” Ryan said. “I ran against him, so we have different views, but at least we started talking.

“This was the first time I ever had a conversation like that with him so I think that’s a good constructive start. The question is, is there follow-through? The question is, does the campaign start back up, or does the engagement continue in a real and constructive way? I don’t know the answer to that, time will tell,” he added.

Republicans and Democrats remain far apart on the fiscal issues that have been a flashpoint for Washington dysfunction since Obama came into office. On Tuesday, House Republicans and Senate Democrats unveiled clashing budgets highlighting the divide.

Ryan’s plan would cut spending by $5.7 trillion and reduce the top tax rate to 25 percent, while the Democratic budget would raise taxes by $1 trillion and includes new stimulus spending.

Ryan said he’d be willing to negotiate with Democrats on aspects of his budget, saying under his plan, spending would grow by 3.4 percent over the next 10 years instead of the anticipated 5 percent, and that somewhere between those two lies the compromise.

Republicans have bashed the Senate for not passing a budget in recent years, but Ryan on Wednesday said it was good the process was moving again.

“I don’t like their budget, but the vehicle is here, the process is being revived,” he said. “We at least have revived a budget process so we can look for common ground.”

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