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Obama hopes to rescue deficit-cutting deal

WASHINGTON — President Obama will go to Capitol Hill this week to try to salvage a big deficit-reduction deal, battling not only Republican resistance but also complaints from Democrats that he mishandled his last attempt.

The president’s outreach to rank-and-file lawmakers is the result of Republicans’ refusal to accept any additional tax increases to avert the automatic spending cuts that are beginning to affect the government. It could meet the same failure as Obama’s earlier bids to work privately through congressional leaders and then to apply public pressure.

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Hopes now rest on finding a narrow path through the ideological and political imperatives of both parties.

White House aides have not ruled out some money-saving structural reforms to Medicare that Republicans favor, notably an idea promoted by the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, to combine the program’s doctor and hospital components with a single deductible for beneficiaries.

Using such savings from entitlements to replace sequestration, as the automatic cuts are called, would meet Republicans’ demands not to use tax increases for that purpose.

At the same time, some Republican senators and aides, publicly and privately, have expressed openness to accepting revenue increases as part of a loophole-closing overhaul of the tax code.

Rolling together budget and tax agreements along those lines would allow Obama to complete the ‘‘grand bargain’’ that he has sought to tackle the nation’s long-term budget imbalances as the baby boom generation retires.

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He plans to meet separately this week with Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, House Democrats, and House Republicans.

White House officials said the consideration of budget plans by the House and Senate in coming weeks would provide a natural forum to explore what might be possible.

‘‘Hopefully there’s an opportunity to work things out through regular order in the House and Senate,’’ said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Obama. ‘‘How likely is that? I can’t say very likely — there are strong structural forces in the Republican Party working against it. But if you try and fail you still have an opportunity to build bonds of trust that could be helpful on other issues.’’

Obama has signaled a willingness to reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security by using a less-generous measure of inflation. He has indicated openness to imposing means-testing on Medicare beneficiaries so that high-income retirees would pay more for their medical care, and he has put on the table $400 billion of cuts in Medicare in the next decade, mostly through payments to health care providers.

Republicans say they are looking for more, including two elements they discussed with the White House during failed talks in 2011: raising the eligibility age for Medicare and cutting federal costs for Medicaid.

White House officials said that those proposals were deeply flawed as a matter of policy and that they did not intend to submit any more offers until Republicans express some willingness to make tax revenue part of the equation.

With all the familiar obstacles looming, however, Democrats are increasingly looking at the previous round of negotiations — at the end of 2012, as the Bush-era tax cuts were scheduled to expire — and concluding that Obama flinched, leaving tax revenue on the table that would have ended the budget standoff on more favorable terms to Democrats.

The second-guessing extends to virtually every aspect of the deal: its failure to postpone the automatic budget cuts for more than two months, its failure to raise the federal debt limit, its yield of $600 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years out of the $4 trillion of new taxes that would have taken effect had the Bush tax cuts been allowed to expire.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said the president should have negotiated after the election with the bipartisan group of senators that he is courting now, rather than resuming the talks with House Speaker John A. Boehner that failed in 2011.

In the agreement concluding that 2011 standoff, said John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff for President Clinton, the administration committed a ‘‘fundamental miscalculation’’ by believing Republican opposition to automatic Pentagon cuts would compel them to later accept tax increases.

White House aides said the deal was a good one. Not only did they crack Republican resistance to income tax rate increases, they said, but they did it without committing to any major cuts to Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries.

They said that the president was not willing to risk the economy’s health by forcing showdowns when he could get much of what he wants through negotiation and that the president had been able to make progress on changes to immigration policy and gun control thanks in part to the deal.

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