"People don't expect Congress always to agree, but on fundamental responsibilities people do expect agreement," said O'Malley, who addressed Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week about the impact a debt crisis would have on states.
Frank Kratovil, the former Eastern Shore congressman who was swept into office by the Democratic wave Obama helped to build in 2008. Kratovil, who spoke with the president briefly after the event, lost his re-election bid last year to Republican Rep. Andy Harris.
He says he has not decided whether to run for the seat again in 2012.
Though the president's opening remarks focused on the debt and the economy, he received a wide range of questions from students on issues including the war on drugs, religious discrimination and whether he had any regrets since taking office.
Aaron Kaufman, a University of Maryland senior with cerebral palsy, implored the president to protect disability funding as part of whatever deficit-reduction deal emerges.
"The issue is we need the vital therapies that Medicaid provides," Kaufman said. "Please don't leave us holding the bag."
Noting his father-in-law's struggle with muscular dystrophy, Obama emphasized the "enormous potential that so many people have, if they just get a little bit of extra help." He said that potential "had to be factored in when we're making decisions about our budget."
After the speech, Kaufman said he was reassured by Obama's response.
"I could see in the president's face that he connected with the question," said the Silver Spring resident, who said the president thanked him for highlighting the needs of the disabled. "He made the argument that I wanted him to make, which is that we can't be penny-wise and pound-foolish."
Outside the event, a small group of protesters braved the oppressive heat and held signs asking Obama to push for immigration reform — in particular, a bill that failed to advance in the Senate last year that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who attend college and meet other requirements. The president is "not living up to" his commitment to support the measure, said Charles Brodell, 18, of Salisbury.
Diana Gibson, a 47-year-old caterer from Lanham, said she was generally pleased with Obama's performance, but she nevertheless left the event with questions. "I wanted him to identify the social programs that he's willing to negotiate on and why they merit consideration," she said.
The lack of specifics was no surprise, given the instability of the negotiations. But after Boehner's decision to walk away from the table, Obama held an unscheduled news conference at the White House in which he said Democrats had offered $1 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending and $650 billion in reductions to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Obama demanded that congressional leaders return to the White House on Saturday.
"We have now run out of time," Obama said. "We've got to get it done. It is not an option not to do it."