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Obama agenda: Face to face

“When President Obama sits down with the new Republican congressional leaders for their first face-to-face meeting on Tuesday, the stated mission will be to make progress on ratifying an arms agreement with Russia and reaching a deal on soon-to-expire tax cuts,” the Washington Post reports. “But with the White House session scheduled to last just one hour, neither side anticipates emerging with a grand compromise. Instead, the goal will be to set a course for the weeks ahead - and to try to determine whether either side is serious about making concessions necessary to reach a deal.”

The Wall Street Journal previews today’s meeting this way: “The first debate of the 2012 presidential election cycle will occur Tuesday, and taxes will be the subject. It's quite possible that, in the end, the tax cuts simply will be extended for everyone temporarily, punting the debate into next year and beyond. Meanwhile, there likely will be lots of maneuvers and test votes, all designed to probe the underlying question: What is the real balance of power in Washington in the wake of the midterm elections?”

Politico: “It won’t be the relaxed dinner-and-drinks working session President Barack Obama wanted, but the White House still hopes Tuesday’s delayed and abbreviated summit with Republicans will start to bridge the bipartisan divide. The problem for Obama is that GOP leaders have little incentive to cut any deals in the lame-duck congressional session -- the better to capitalize on their new House majority in January -- and have no appetite for major compromise on the extension of Bush-era tax cuts or their deficit-cutting platform.”

The Boston Globe: “In the first test of Washington’s new political alignment, President Obama will meet with Republican leaders today with the nation’s tax rates and a nuclear arms treaty in doubt. Neither side expects final deals from the meeting, but the sparring could have major short- and long-term consequences.”

It appears John McCain is more optimistic that the Senate can ratify the new START treaty than Jon Kyl is. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on ABC that he hopes START can get done by the end of this year, per The Hill. "I believe that we could move forward with the START treaty and satisfy Sen. Kyl's concerns and mine about missile defense and others, and I would hope that we can do that," McCain said. When asked if negotiations had advanced to the extent that a vote could be held by the end of the year, McCain said, "I would hope so. But Sen. Kyl's concerns are very legitimate, and I think that attempts are being made to address them … What I would hope that we could do is we could do is agree to the extension of tax cuts at all levels and also reach some agreement on moving forward with the START treaty as well," he said. "I think that is a serious result that could ensue from the meeting today."

The AP writes on today’s release of the military’s report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:: “Officials familiar with the 10-month study's results have said a clear majority of respondents don't care if gays serve openly, with 70 percent predicting that lifting the ban would have positive, mixed or no results. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings hadn't been released.”

The Hill: “President Obama on Monday proposed a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers, stealing a play from the Republican handbook in the process.”

The AP adds, “Obama’s move was an attempt to get in front of Republican plans to slash federal pay and the workforce next year, when they will flex more legislative muscle than now. It came a day ahead of Obama’s meeting at the White House with both Republican and Democratic leaders -- his first with Republicans since the midterm elections -- and two days before the deadline for recommendations by his deficit-reduction commission.”