President Obama took to the news conference podium Friday at the White House amid stalled negotiations on raising the debt-ceiling and tackling the federal deficit. The question-and-answer session with reporters came after a week of meetings with congressional leaders that has left both sides to negotiate within their own parties before returning for additional White House talks.
“We should not even be this close to a deadline on this issue. This should have been taken care of earlier,” the president said, referring to the Aug. 2 deadline to avoid default, and a self-imposed July 22 deadline to reach a deal.
“This is not some abstract issue. These are obligations that the united states has taken on in the past. Congress has run up the credit card and we now have an obligation to pay our bills,” he said.
The president echoed the same themes heard in previous statements, including his desire to reach an agreement on raising revenue in addition to cutting spending and making changes to entitlements, namely Social Security and Medicare. He has repeatedly stated that any tax code modifications would be directed at corporation and higher-income earners.
Obama: “We don’t need more studies. We don’t need a balanced budget amendment. We simply need to make these tough choices.”
“It is hard to do a big package. My Republican friends have said that they’re not willing to do revenues … my hope though is that they’re not just listening to lobbyists or special interests, but that they’re also listening to the American people,” President Obama said.
He acknowledged the possibility that such a big package, while preferable, may be difficult to achieve in the current political climate. Asked about a plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., that would authorize the president to raise the debt limit, he said “it is constructive to say that if washington operates as usual and can’t get anything done, let’s at least avert Armageddon. I’m glad that people are serious about the consequences of default.”
The negotiations have stalled largely on tax and entitlements, an area in which the president said he would compromise only up to a point, and that he would not sign off on an overhaul to the “most important social safety nets that we have” that gives people “certainty and reliability in their golden years.” But he did acknowledge that “it turns out that modest modifications can save you trillions of dollars,” specifically by lowering costs.
“We’ve identified over a trillion dollars in discretionary cuts both in defense and domestic spending. That’s hard to do,” he said, touting sacrificed by his own party and calling on Republican leaders to budge on their sticking points. “You have 80 percent of the American people who support a balanced approach” of both revenues and cuts, he said, but “the problem is members of Congress are dug in ideologically … because they boxed themselves in with previous statements.”
Asked about reports of heated debates and flared tempers, “I think this notion that things got ugly is just not true. We’ve been meeting every single day and we’ve had very constructive conversations … the American people are not interested in the reality TV aspect of … did someone get hurt?”
In response to a reporter’s question about the future, he joked “Of course I still have hope. Don’t you remember my campaign?”
House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement in response to the news conference saying, in part, that:
“President Obama has been talking tough about cutting spending, but his deeds aren’t matching his words. Consider all of the government boondoggles he has refused to put on the table for cuts: ObamaCare; the so-called ‘green jobs’ initiative; high-speed rail; and a vast array of other pet projects that are unnecessarily costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. While Republicans have focused on the big problems we face, this White House has focused on protecting the status quo. The same holds true for entitlement spending, where the White House has been talking in terms of nickels and dimes at a time when trillions of dollars in serious reforms are needed to preserve the programs and put them on a sustainable path.”