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Obama eyes talks with GOP on spending

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The White House says President Barack Obama wants a civil and reasonable discussion with Republicans as he negotiates reductions in Social Security and Medicare spending.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that making needed changes in the two massive programs will require compromise. He would not set a timetable for negotiations.

Adjusting Social Security and Medicare have typically been politically charged topics that both parties have used to attack each other.

Carney also defended Obama's assertions that his 2012 budget eventually will not add to the national debt, even though it shows deficits in every year through 2021. He said the budget foresees spending and revenue reaching balance farther down the road. He said the only spending that will create deficits will be continued interest payments on the debt.

Meanwhile, Obama is promoting a new effort to protect public lands and boost conservation, an initiative that mostly rebrands current programs under a new name.

Obama said it is important to conserve public lands, even in tough economic times, and said the new "America's Great Outdoors" program will encourage more Americans to enjoy the outdoors. The president promoted the program at a White House ceremony yesterday.

The White House declined to release a price tag for the Great Outdoors initiative, but said much of the spending will be blended into existing programs run by the Interior and Agriculture departments and the Environmental Protection Agency. The program also encompasses the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The Interior Department, which has the largest share of the program, set aside $5.5 billion for the outdoors program in its budget proposal for the next fiscal year. Most of that money, $4.6 billion, is for operations for three agencies - the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service - and does not represent new spending.

Still, the program includes some new spending. It would double - to $900 million - federal spending on land and water conservation. The money would be used to buy private land for public use and provide grants to states.

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