A chronology of Obama's visit to Baltimore

On way back to WashingtonUpdated 1:39 p.m. President Obama, having taken questions from Republicans for 30 minutes longer than scheduled, is now on his way to Washington. First a quick motorcade to Fort McHenry (more blocked traffic), and then a chopper ride back to the White House.

Check baltimoresun.com and tomorrow's print edition for full details of the president's visit.

By Paul West

Obama: Both parties to blame for 'sour climate'Updated 1:34 p.m. President Barack Obama is getting an earful from House Republicans who say that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has shut them out of the decison-making process.

Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois says members of the Democratic caucus have "stiff-armed" their GOP colleagues. Roskam says Obama isn't alone in wanting to hit the reset button on 2009.

Obama says both sides are to blame for a "sour climate on Capitol Hill." Obama says he's willing to help bring Republican and Democratic leaders together with the president. Obama says he's failed to foster those conversations.

The president says there are fissures within his Democratic Party, much like the GOP. He says a tone of civility would be more helpful than the "slash-and-burn" style sometimes practiced by both sides.

From Associated Press

Obama backs line-item veto for spendingUpdated 1:29 p.m. President Barack Obama says he is willing to work with Republicans to create a process allowing the president to veto specific parts of spending bills.

Obama told a GOP retreat that every president would love to have the ability to nix lines of the budget. Obama says the line-item veto is something he's ready to work with Congress to make into law.

Obama says it would be ideal if both parties showed restraint on spending for pet projects, so the line-item veto wouldn't be needed. Obama says he's amused that members of Congress decry "wasteful spending" outside their districts -- but are silent on their own pet projects.

He says those so-called earmarks are not unique to either party.

From Associated Press

Obama spells out differences on energyUpdated 1:25 p.m. President Barack Obama says he and congressional Republicans could agree better on a national energy policy if they would accept that greater efforts are needed on a transition to cleaner technologies.

Answering a question at a House GOP retreat today, Obama said "nobody has been a bigger advocate of clean-coal technology than I." But he also said he and Republicans "have a serious disagreement" about long-term energy strategy.

Obama told the group, meeting in Baltimore, that "we can't operate the coal industry in the United States as if we're still in the 1920s, the 1930s, 1950s." The president said that in order to better compete in the world, America has to be seen by other countries as a leader in clean-energy strategies.

From Associated Press

Obama: GOP leaving itself little roomUpdated 1:23 p.m. President Barack Obama is telling Republicans that their rhetoric claiming his plans would "destroy America" has left them little room to reach bipartisan solutions.

Obama told GOP members of the House that their name-calling and blind opposition have led them to become politically vulnerable because their sole message is that they say "no" to the first-term president. Obama says their characterization of his plans as part of some "Bolsheviks revolution" has been unhelpful to both parties.

Obama says Republicans' statements have boxed them in with their conservative base. He says the tone in Washington has become corrosive and is not serving their constituents, something he says must change.

From Associated Press

Obama underestimated unemploymentUpdated 12:49 p.m. President Barack Obama has staunchly defended his economic policies in a visit with House Republicans, although he acknowledged the administration initially underestimated how high national joblessness would go.

Obama was responding Friday at a GOP retreat to an assertion by Rep. Mike Pence that he should have embraced an across-the-board tax cut early in his term. The Republican conference chairman said that Obama had chosen to rely on targeted "boutique" tax cuts rather than across-the-board relief.

Obama defended his strategy but conceded officials mistakenly believed unemployment would go no higher than "the 8 percent range." He also said that many of the jobs were lost in December, January and February of 2009, before he took office or before any of his programs took effect. Obama told the Indiana Republican, "I'm assuming you're not faulting my policies for that."

From Associated Press

A surpriseUpdated 12:45 p.m. Obama's question-and-answer session with House Republicans is taking place in front of the news media. Lots of good give-and-take. Nobody's thrown any food yet. Or hollered, "You lie!" Yet. Details to come.

By Paul West

More details on Obama's business tourUpdated 12:25 p.m. The president hailed the latest GDP growth report and promoted his plans for small business tax cuts at a machine company in Baltimore. "That's the fastest economic growth in six years," he said of the 5.7 percent fourth quarter increase. He told a small audience of 25 company employees plus local dignitaries that his ideas are the most cost-effective way of stimulating more hiring.

"Now's the perfect time for this kind of incentive because the economy is growing but businesses are still hesitant to start hiring again," he said. He added that he would happily discuss other ideas with Congress. "I'm open to any good ideas from Democrats or Republicans," he said, and noted that some lawmakers have proposed tax breaks similar to those he touted today. "The key thing is it's time to put America back to work." He also repeated his State of the Union riffs about the worst of the storm being over and the bank bailout being unpopular but necessary.

Before his remarks, Obama was shown around the Chesapeake Machine Co., which was opened in 1981 and produces custom industrial equipment including machinery that makes solar panels. The president was in a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie, wearing a U.S. flag pin in his lapel and a BlackBerry on his belt. He put on a pair of blue protective glasses that looked more like designer shades. He was shown around by Terry Sims, the company's president and owner, and Joe Sedlak, the operations manager. He greeted workers with a jaunty, "Hey guys" or "What's going on, guys."

Among the dignitaries in attendance: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes, and City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, soon to be sworn in as the next mayor.

From White House pool report by Peter Baker of The New York Times

35-vehicle motorcade arrives at hotelUpdated 11:55 a.m. After a trip through the Fort McHenry tunnel, the president is at the hotel now. The motorcade was roughly 35 vehicles long, not including more than a dozen motorcycle cops. And no, nobody stopped to pay a toll (no EZ Passes used, either).

By Paul West

Presidential visit ties up trafficUpdated 11:44 a.m. We're on Interstate 895, which was cleared of traffic in both directions. Interstate 95 southbound is also shut down. The backup is significant.

By Paul West

En route for 'healthy discussion' with RepublicansUpdated 11:40 a.m. Now en route to the Harborplace Hotel. For protection, Obama has brought along more than an army of security. He also has Ray LaHood. He's the secretary of Transportation. More to the point, he's a former Republican congressman from Illinois, one of two Republicans in Obama's cabinet.

LaHood accompanied Obama to Capitol Hill for his last meeting with House Republicans, in early '09. He said he doesn't expect fireworks when the president and the GOPers talk behind closed doors. But he does predict a "healthy discussion" about jobs.

Obama's opening remarks will be open to press coverage. The better stuff -- what the Republicans have to say to him and how he responds -- will be private.

By Paul West

Obama completes tour of Chesapeake Machine Co.Updated 11:39 a.m. Obama has completed his tour -- the cluster of cameras, photos and traveling White House pool personnel outnumbered the workers at this small business. But that's the point. Actual two points. This is all about the visuals. And all about small businesses. Even though any company would qualify for the break -- assuming Congress goes along, which is no sure thing -- the proposal is tilted toward smaller companies. That's where the jobs are. And the votes. Did we mention that 2010 is an election year?

Now it's off to the Inner Harbor, for Obama's faceoff with House Republicans.

By Paul West

Today's economic report is 'good news' Updated 11:37 a.m. At his first stop in Baltimore, Obama hailed this morning's report on economic growth, the fastest in six years, a "stark improvement" over where things stood a year ago, he said, in remarks on the shop floor.

America "avoided the looming depression," Obama said, and today's report is "good news" that makes this "the perfect time" for the kind of job-creation tax break that he is proposing.

Rebuilding the economy "will take time and hard work" but "I know we can do it," he said, concluding with praise for the workers at Chesapeake Machine Co.

By Paul West

Obama arrives at Chesapeake Machine Co. Updated 11:07 a.m. President Obama has arrived at Chesapeake Machine Co. A podium has been erected on the shop floor, in front of several very large machine tools. He'll use the site for a photo op to pitch his $33 billion jobs tax credit for business.

Work at the firm has continued sporadically, as employees await the president's tour. With everything choreographed in advance, several blue-collar workers are positioned by their tools, ready for the show to begin. Everyone who works here -- there appear to be about 20 workers on hand -- has his or her point-and-shoot or home videocam to record the event.

Gov. Martin O'Malley posed for a group photo while awaiting the president's arrival. And Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who like the governor is running for re-election this year, also worked the room. Every vote counts.

By Paul West

Traffic congestion begins Updated 10:45 a.m. Traffic is moving slowly around Lombard and North Haven streets around the area of the city where President Obama is expected to visit today. It looks like Lombard street is closed heading east toward Oldham Street in Highlandtown. Police aren't letting any cars through at that part of Lombard Street, and city buses and public works dump trucks are being used to block off the street. Watch out for traffic in the area to get worse in the next hour or so. No word yet on whether Obama has arrived.

By Gus G. Sentementes

The president's Charm City schedule Updated 10:25 a.m. If all goes according to plan, the President should be lifting off from the South Lawn of the White House now.

First stop: a machine shop in Highlandtown. There, he'll tour the floor of the facility, then deliver remarks touting his proposed $5,000 tax credit for each new hire businesses make this year.

A host of Democratic notables from the city and state are expected to be on hand to greet the Democratic president.

Among them: Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Mayor-to-be Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake and Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and John S. Sarbanes.

By Paul West

City's calm in leadup to president's arrival Updated 9:37 a.m. All's quiet on Pratt Street, outside the downtown hotel where Obama is due at noon. Inside the lobby, dozens of Baltimore police are getting their marching orders. The security cordon is already in place.

Obama is due to arrive in town shortly after 10 a.m. for his first visit since taking office. No travel details have been provided, but in the past, Fort McHenry has been used as the landing pad for the president's Marine One chopper.

By Paul West

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