Obama was looking beyond the days partisan drama, seeking the kind of grand bargain to bring down deficits thats eluded him for years.
He met with Senate Democrats for 75 minutes, and said little beyond Hello, everybody to about 200 reporters as he exited the lunch session. Senators who attended the session described it as cordial.
The president talked extensively in the session about getting a "grand bargain" with Republicans to reduce deficits over a long term, the kind of deal theyd tried to negotiate two years ago. He said there probably would have to be changes to Social Security and Medicare, but that Republicans would have to agree to more revenue.
Some Democrats were skeptical that such an accord could be reached.
"Some of us responded by saying, Yes, but, " said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, reflecting liberal concerns about potential cuts or changes in Social Security and Medicare.
While the two parties wrangled Tuesday over the budget for the year that will start Oct. 1, the mood was more conciliatory on the question of keeping the government open from March 27, when the current budget bill runs out, to Sept. 30.
The House passed a plan last week, and senators from both parties united around an alternative Tuesday .
The Senate measure maintains the same spending levels as the House bill, but the Senate version would give some agencies more flexibility to spend.
Both principals involved in crafting the bill had hopes for its success.
"We must prevent a government shutdown, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
Final consideration might be delayed, though, as Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John McCain, R-Ariz., said they and other senators wanted more time to read the huge bill.
Anita Kumar and Kevin G. Hall contributed to this article.
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