From NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
After the Obama administration unveiled its budget yesterday, the common Republican response was this: Where's the presidential leadership -- on reducing the deficit, on reforming entitlement spending, and on putting the nation on a more stable fiscal course?
Here was President Obama's response at his news conference today: Big change can't come from the president alone.
"This is going to be a negotiating process," he said on efforts to rein in entitlement spending. "The key thing that the American people want to see is that all sides are compromising... Both sides are going to have to give."
That was the template, Obama argued, for the tax-cut deal that the White House and congressional Republicans reached in December, when Republicans gained a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for high earners, while Democrats got an extension of jobless benefits and a payroll tax cut.
That appears to sum up his legislative philosophy: A president should set the objectives and can settle disputes, but he can't enact legislative change -- top-down -- by himself. It was the process the Obama White House tried to avoid in the health-care battle, with the president initially deferring to Capitol Hill. But when passage of the legislation was in jeopardy, Obama had to take more ownership of it, which didn't help his poll numbers.
Obama also stressed that slow and steady usually wins the legislative race. "The notion that it's been shelved is incorrect," he said in response to Chuck Todd's question why Obama didn't adopt many of the president's deficit-reduction commission recommendations in his budget.
"You guys are pretty impatient," he added. "There is a tendency for us to assume if it didn't happen today, it isn't going to happen... I agree with much of the [commission's] framework; I disagree with some of the framework."
Obama continued, "This is a going to be a process in which each side, in both chambers of Congress, go back and forth until we arrive at something that has an actual chance of passage. My goal is to solve the problem, not get a good headline on the first day."
But the biggest marker the president laid down was this: With Republicans in control of the House and with them having 47 seats in the Senate, they need to be partners to get things down. "This is a matter of everybody ... getting in the boat at the same time so it doesn't tip over."