Continued from page 1

Republicans and the president spent most of the meeting on the differences between the two parties on their approaches to deficit reduction. Although no specifics were discussed, Mr. Obama said he is willing to challenge Democrats in Congress on finding significant cost savings in Social Security and Medicare if they were willing to challenge their own party’s more conservative brethren over the need to raise taxes.

He touted his administration’s proposal to close loopholes in the corporate tax code without increasing the net level of taxation as a positive area of potential common ground.

“He said, ‘Look, I’m willing to lean forward on this but you’re going to have to lean forward, too,’” Mr. Johanns recalled.

The senators reacted respectfully, but “there was no standing ovation at that moment,” one GOP senator said.

In response a question from Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, Mr. Obama also suggested the Senate set up a special committee to study regulatory reform.

“I thought that was one tangible thing that came out of the meeting,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican.

“We welcome his visit, we welcome the dinner,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. “I told him I said look, this is historically the way presidents have gotten results.”

Mr. Alexander said he used the example of former Sen. Everett Dirksen, an Illinois Republican who regularly worked with President Lyndon Johnson, and popular Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neil’s close relationship with President Reagan.

“I wanted to show respect for him but I wanted to show him that this is the way things have historically gotten done,” Mr. Alexander said. “You don’t just heckle us and taunt us on the campaign trail.”