WASHINGTON - It was supposed to be one of those closed-door sessions in which political leaders can get beyond partisanship in discussing a tough problem. But it didn't work out that way yesterday when two busloads of House Republicans met with President Obama at the White House over the issue of federal deficits.

The two sides traded complaints and accused each other of partisanship and posturing in a vivid illustration of the tetchy atmosphere that dominates the capital these days.

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, architect of a Medicare overhaul that would reduce the government's open-ended commitment to seniors, accused Obama of "mis-describing" his proposal and asked the president to ease up on the "demagoguery."

In reply, Obama said he was no stranger to cartoonish depictions, reeling off a list of conservatives' favorite attack points: "I'm the death panel-supporting, socialist, may-not-have-been-born-here president," Obama said.

The meeting was meant to resolve pent up grievances and move toward compromise on the deficit and the cost of health-care for seniors. After an hour and 15 minutes of talk in the East Room, the two sides parted company having made little progress.