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Congress: Obama's Hill visit

NBC's Mike Viqueira reports that President Obama spoke for 14 minutes to House Democrats during his closed-door meeting with them on Capitol Hill yesterday. More than 150 members attended, and they were very enthusiastic. Obama, as expected, focused on the budget. "Only way to get out of the economic mess we are in is to grow our way out of it. If we do not have growth, we will not succeed," he said, according to staffers inside the meeting.

The president closed by saying that he and Dems are in this together. Said budget was a blueprint for economic growth. "I need your vote in passing the budget. If we do that, we will create a sense of momentum that will allow us to do health care reform and education" and other major initiatives. "If we don't pas the budget, it will empower those critics who don't want to see anything getting done."

The New York Times adds this about Obama's trip to Capitol Hill yesterday: "Lawmakers and aides said Mr. Obama also impressed them with his detailed level of political knowledge, reminding one questioner that the lawmaker had voted against his economic stimulus legislation. 'Don't think we're not keeping score, brother,' Mr. Obama said."

The Washington Post is the latest to note how GOP Sen. Judd Gregg has gone from Obama's Commerce secretary-designate to one of his biggest critics. "Now, after turning his back on the post and the administration, the always confident and occasionally sarcastic Gregg has rediscovered his voice as the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and de facto leader of the opposition to Obama's $3.5 trillion budget."

More: "Democrats argue that Gregg's opposition to the Obama plan is hypocritical. When Republicans were in charge of Congress, Gregg backed tax cuts supported by the Bush administration that Democrats say increased the national debt. And while Gregg has sharply attacked Democrats for considering the use of reconciliation, which would allow them eventually to pass legislation to reform health care with 51 votes rather than the normal 60 that would be needed to avoid a filibuster, Gregg publicly favored such a provision as Budget Committee chairman in 2005 as part of an attempt to push through a GOP-backed proposal to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

"Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is expected to get a friendly reception from the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday," the AP says.

The CBC at it again… "Members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Monday criticized the lack of minority participation in the government's financial bailouts and suggested that President Barack Obama isn't doing much better than his predecessor to ensure diversity."