Obama Stresses Need For Bipartisan Work On Budget

President Obama says in making the tough decisions to address the nation's deficit, everything should be on the table — and all ideas are welcome. But Republican Rep. Paul Ryan says that's not the message he got Wednesday.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

President Obama struck a conciliatory tone on the deficit today. After outlining his plan to cut $4 trillion of red ink yesterday, the president stressed the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together. In a moment we'll hear from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, who has a very different deficit plan.

First, though, here's NPR's Scott Horsley at the White House.

SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama says in making the tough decisions to address the nation's deficit, everything should be on the table and all ideas are welcome.

President BARACK OBAMA: No matter how much we spend time debating the issues, at some point we're going to have to come together as Americans.

HORSLEY: But GOP Congressman Paul Ryan says that's not the message he got yesterday, when Mr. Obama not only outlined his own plan for cutting the deficit but sharply attacked a rival proposal put forward by House Republicans.

Representative PAUL RYAN (Republican, Wisconsin): What we ended up finding out is we got front row seats to President Obama's re-election campaign speech. We basically realized fairly quickly that this wasn't about building bridges, it was about partisanship.

HORSLEY: The White House insists Mr. Obama was merely spelling out in clear terms the differences between two deficit cutting strategies - his own plan, which relies on a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, and the GOP proposal, which calls for spending cuts alone.

Chief economist Diane Lim Rogers, who is with the deficit watchdog Concord Coalition, says the president's approach is the more balanced one. And she says House Republicans should not act so surprised that Mr. Obama disagrees with him.

Ms. DIANE LIM ROGERS (Chief Economist, Concord Coalition): Some of the president's policy watchers prior to his speech were worried that he wasn't going to make enough of a distinction between his view of how he should reduce the deficit and Paul Ryan's view. So I think this sort of made it clear that his vision is quite different.

HORSLEY: Rogers says by finally wading into the deficit debate, Mr. Obama also made it clear that ignoring the problem is no longer an option. The federal government must get control of its finances. The only question is how.

Ms. ROGERS: He laid out the choice, look, we have to reduce the deficit and it's either my way or Paul Ryan's way. And there's really no option to say no thanks to either.

HORSLEY: The Obama administration warns, Ryan's plan would shred the social safety net and force future retirees to pay for more and more of their own health care. Republicans argue the tax hikes and the president's proposal would cripple the economy. Despite these seemingly polarized positions, White House spokesman Jay Carney says the two sides are making progress. At least there's general agreement on the scope of the problem.

Mr. JAY CARNEY (White House Spokesman): There is a certain realization taking hold that there is an urgency to addressing this problem. And it requires Republicans and Democrats to move outside their comfort zone.

HORSLEY: A bipartisan group of senators is already doing that. The so-called Gang of Six has been working to turn the recommendations of the president's fiscal commission into law, with Democrats accepting changes to entitlement programs and Republicans going along with an increase in tax revenues.

After a meeting with the president today, Fiscal Commission co-chair Alan Simpson called for mixing all the plans together. The former senator said that's what you do when you legislate.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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