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No stopgap: Obama demands big deal for debt limit

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

President Barack Obama talks about the ongoing budget negotiations, Monday, July 11, 2011, in the briefing room of the White House in Washington.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
WASHINGTON -- Imploring both political parties to give ground, President Barack Obama said Monday he would reject any stopgap extension of the nation's borrowing limit, adding fresh urgency for Republicans and fellow Democrats to resolve tax and spending disputes and head off economic calamity.

"If not now, when?" Obama said in a news conference just ahead of his latest bargaining session with congressional leaders at the White House. That meeting lasted about 90 minutes and ended with no sign of progress.

Lawmakers planned to return to the White House for more talks this afternoon.

Obama told reporters the sessions would be an everyday affair until there was agreement, and he refused to entertain the idea of a backup plan should they fail and the government should default Aug. 2.

"We are going to get this done," Obama insisted. They have two weeks or less to do so in order to get any deal through Congress in time.

Even as Obama spoke, Republicans renewed their opposition to the tax increases he sees as crucial along with spending cuts for reducing huge federal deficits and restraining the soaring national debt.

"Do you need to raise taxes in order to get control of spending? I think the answer is no," said House Speaker John Boehner just before heading to the White House.

Said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: "We are not going to raise taxes. That's all."

There was no indication late Monday that the latest bargaining session moved either side.

"Republicans are insisting on cutting seniors' benefits instead of closing taxpayer-funded giveaways to billionaires and corporate jet owners," Adam Jentleson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said after the White House meeting broke up.

Democrats suggested that most spending cuts be concentrated in the later years of a deal, but a Republican aide said GOP lawmakers took issue with that suggestion and want the cuts to begin right away.

A potential deal -- a package that could total $2 trillion or more in deficit cuts over a decade -- is considered necessary for Congress to lift the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit. Failure to lift that cap could cause the government to default on its bills and sink the economy and the world into deeper trouble.

Obama renewed his case Monday for a package that would put a historic dent in the country's deficits by blending tax increases for the wealthy and big corporations opposed by Republicans and social service cuts that Democrats decry.

Obama said he would refuse to accept stopgap legislation. "It's not going to get easier; it's going to get harder," Obama said. "So we might as well do it now. Pull off the Band-Aid. Eat our peas."

He said he would refuse to sign into law a short-term extension of the debt limit, which technically left open the possibility that it could become law without his signature. The White House later confirmed that Obama meant he would veto such a bill.

More broadly, Obama sought to position himself as the pragmatist seeking a compromise in a divided town. He tried to build pressure on Congress to prove to a disillusioned American people that "this town can actually do something once in a while."

To Republicans, he said they have long pushed deficit reduction as the way to create desperately needed jobs and now won't take yes for an answer. "Where are they?" he said. "I mean, this is what they claim would be the single biggest boost to business certainty and confidence. So what's the holdup?"

To Democrats eager to protect entitlements, Obama said doing nothing is not tenable. The president said Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have to be made stronger for the longer term and the rising debt each year will crowd out Democratic priorities such as education and medical research.

"So, yeah, we're going to have a sales job," he said. "This is not pleasant."

Obama himself is under pressure to get a deal that can pass Congress without undermining his own positions -- and voters.

Obama's previous meeting with top lawmakers from both parties, on Sunday night, accomplished little, and that was after the possibility of a grander deal on the magnitude of $4 trillion, as discussed by Obama and Boehner, fell apart Saturday night amid steep Republican opposition.

The meeting Monday was expected to focus on potential debt savings identified by Vice President Joe Biden and lawmakers during earlier talks. But that group, too, was bitterly divided over taxes, and the amount of savings they found elsewhere still falls short of what all sides agree must come together quickly.

For his part, Boehner told reporters that he agreed with Obama that the nation's borrowing limit must be raised, but he said revenue can be raised without hiking taxes. Boehner said Obama insists on raising taxes but the White House isn't serious enough about reforming entitlement programs.

Here, too, there was an enormous gap in how both sides described the state of play.

"I am prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done," Obama said, contending he has "bent over backward" to work with Republicans.

The president made clear Monday that any changes to Social Security would be designed to ensure money is available for beneficiaries years from now -- as opposed to trimming costs to reduce the deficit. One possibility would lower cost-of-living increases for recipients.

As to why that would be included in debt talks, Obama said it all came back to politics.

"If you're going to take a bunch of tough votes," he said, "You might as well do it now."

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I hope Obama gets the plan he want through. I think it would be best for the country.

-- Posted by gandydancergirl on Mon, Jul 11, 2011, at 11:51 AM

According to Wikipedia As of June 29th 2011 the Total Public Debt of the United States of America 14 Trillion, 460 Billion. ( $14,460,000,000,000.00 ) This is difficult to understand since most calculators do not deal with numbers this great. What does this debt mean? It means All 325 million Americans EACH OWE $44,492.30. It also means our debt is 96.3% of our gross domestic production for 2011. In other words our income to debt ration is 96.3 to 100. This is awful! Most Americans cannot buy a home if their debt to income ratio is greater than 43%.

I appose raising the debt ceiling. Our debt is to high. I favor an across the board reduction of all Federal jobs no exceptions, a 10% reduction in pay for all federal employees, the sale of 10% of all Federal property, term limits of twelve years for congresspeople, senators and staff and a 66% reduction in their retirement benefits and the reduction of the US military abroad by 33%.

-- Posted by Voice of Perception on Mon, Jul 11, 2011, at 2:18 PM

Voice of Perception: You will not get none of that if this thing is not settled by August 2, 2011 the day we go in to default, we all will be living in tent City with soup lines so you better hope an agreement can be reached between both parties.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Mon, Jul 11, 2011, at 3:45 PM

I would imagine if they would stop payment of Congressional paychecks and expense accounts etc-Congress just might figure out something. And I would suggest no retroactive payment for the time they spend bickering over this issue.

-- Posted by ambersalley on Mon, Jul 11, 2011, at 6:25 PM

I would like my dept ceiling raised as well, but I only have so much income. Congress needs to stop all forign aid immediately, bring all troops home, and station them on our borders.

-- Posted by truthdetector on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 6:45 AM

all those congressmen and the senate better come to an agreement quickly. president obama already had to give up one vacation and 2 golf games. that stuff just isn't gonna cut it.

if you they allow the debt ceiling to be raised they'll spend more of our money and then they'll want more of our money because they spent all they borrowed again. i really like voice of perception's plan. cut federal spending. stay away from social security. it was NEVER meant for the general fund anyway. it was just another spending trick the congress thought they could use to increase the amount of money they spent... more borrowing from the future to spend today. it has to stop.

-- Posted by wonderfulneighbors on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 11:50 AM

I hope Obama gets the plan he want through. I think it would be best for the country.

-- Posted by gandydancergirl on Mon, Jul 11, 2011, at 11:51 AM

That was a joke wasn't it?

-- Posted by We Regret To Inform U on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:25 PM

cut the benefits to the babyboomer generation. They are the ones who put us in this mess. Time for them to pay for it.

All this talk of cuts to future generations Social Security and higher taxes on today's workers is BULL. Take it from the worst generation.

-- Posted by rain/rain/go/away on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 10:32 PM

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