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Obama tries to hit the reset button on budget message war

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro and Mark Murray
We have a few thoughts on President Obama's news conference. Here's our first: He tried to hit the reset button on the budget message war in Washington, as Republicans have accused him of "punting" and lacking "leadership" on entitlements.

On the budget his administration unveiled yesterday, the president said it meets his goal of cutting the budget deficit in half, and that U.S. revenues would match expenditures by 2015. But that doesn't include, as he acknowledged, interest on existing debt -- which would still be a significant portion of deficits to come.

"We won't be running the credit card up anymore," Obama contended, arguing that his budget shows his administration is serious about the U.S. needing to "live within its means while investing in the future."

He added, "You might put off a night out for dinner or a vacation," but you "wouldn't want to sacrifice" a child's college savings or "key repairs to your house. That's what we've done with this budget."

He said there are budget cuts that are his priorities, like freezing government workers' salaries for two years, community action programs, and conservation programs.

At the end of the news conference, Obama said his first two budgets ran up deficits to prevent an economic depression. But in his current budget -- his third -- the focus is changing. "The economy is growing again, created more than a million jobs in the last year. And in that environment, we have to look at these long-term problems, in a much more serious and urgent way."

The president said he still intends to push for entitlement reform, but, he said, it requires Democrats, independents, and Republicans to "work together" the way Ronald Reagan and former Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill did in the 1980s.

He added that he believes Social Security will be easier to shore up than Medicare and Medicaid.

"All of these steps will be difficult," Obama said, adding that there will be "discussions" on entitlements in the months to come.

He expressed optimism that a deal could get done, but noted that it wouldn't only get done if both parties "are committed" to tackling the problem "in a serious way."

"This is going to be a negotiation process," he said, adding that "all sides" have to be "serious" and "willing to give," and that there has to be a "genuine spirit of compromise."