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Obama, GOP exchange barbs on key issues

BALTIMORE - In a remarkably sharp face-to-face confrontation, President Barack Obama chastised Republican lawmakers Friday for opposing him on taxes, health care and the economic stimulus, while they accused him in turn of brushing off their ideas and driving up the national debt.

The president and GOP House members took turns questioning and sometimes lecturing each other for more than an hour at a Republican gathering here. The Republicans agreed to let TV cameras inside, resulting in an extended, point-by-point interchange.

With voters angry about partisanship and legislative logjams, both sides were eager to demonstrate they were ready to cooperate, resulting in the GOP invitation and Obama's acceptance. Obama said Republican lawmakers have attacked his health care overhaul so fiercely, "you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot." His proposals are mainstream, widely supported ideas, he said, and they deserve some GOP votes in Congress.

But Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) pointedly asked Obama: "What should we tell our constituents who know that Republicans have offered positive solutions" for health care, "and yet continue to hear out of the administration that we've offered nothing?"

Obama disputed Price's claim that a Republican plan would insure nearly all Americans without raising taxes.

"That's just not true," said Obama, calling such claims "boilerplate" meant to score political points.

In another exchange, the president said some Republican lawmakers in the audience had attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects in their districts funded by the 2009 stimulus package that they voted against.

Republican Conference chairman Mike Pence of Indiana said Obama was trying to defend "a so-called stimulus that was a piecemeal list of projects and boutique tax cuts."

Obama replied, "When you say they were boutique tax cuts, Mike, 95 percent of working Americans got tax cuts. This notion that this was a radical package is just not true."

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