Congress Reacts To Obama's Presser
SIEGEL: Much of what President Obama said today was directed toward lawmakers, so here's NPR's Andrea Seabrook with congressional reaction to the president's press conference.
ANDREA SEABROOK: Today, President Obama picked up the bat and engaged in a national game of whack-a-mole. At every turn, on almost every subject, he rhetorically bonked lawmakers on the head for not compromising on budget negotiations, for making, quote, "a lot of noise about Libya," and for going into recess every few weeks.
At about the same time, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was talking to reporters in the Capitol about what Mr. Obama would say.
Senator MITCH MCCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): We expect that he will be pushing for tax increases as a condition to get some kind of deficit reduction package. Our view is a good first step is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
SEABROOK: All 47 Senate Republicans are sponsoring a constitutional amendment forcing the U.S. government to live under balanced budgets. Of course, amending the Constitution is a complicated and long process, so today's proposal doesn't really address the current fiscal crisis, though Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions defended it.
Senator JEFF SESSIONS (Republican, Alabama): This is not an academic matter. I think it's another example of the Republican leadership stepping forward with real proposals that would change the course that we're now on.
Senator BARBARA MIKULSKI (Democrat, Maryland): I want the Republicans to put their votes where their mouth is.
SEABROOK: Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski says she's frustrated with Republicans pretending to address the crisis. She agrees with President Obama's words today, that Democrats have cut a lot of programs they'd rather not and it's time for Republicans to compromise on some of their pet issues.
Senator MIKULSKI: They want to close Social Security offices. I want to close loopholes. They want to get rid of teachers. I want to get rid of sacred cows.
SEABROOK: Mr. Obama said Republican leaders walked out on talks last week because Democrats want to do away with tax breaks for big companies and the wealthy. For example, the oil and gas companies industry and people who own corporate jets. Republicans, like Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, reject that and say getting rid of tax subsidies is the same as raising taxes.
Senator ORRIN HATCH (Republican, Utah): Their answer to everything in this administration and on the other side of the floor, a large measure of them, is to increase taxes for everything.
SEABROOK: Hatch did say he's willing to consider ending some tax benefits, but not as a part of the current negotiations on cutting the deficit and raising the debt ceiling.
Senator HATCH: And if we're going to do that, we ought to reserve discussions on tax expenditures so that we can utilize those tax expenditures in the overall resolution of our problems.
SEABROOK: So where does that leave negotiations? Well, Democrats, like Maryland's Mikulski, continue to hammer on Republicans for not doing their part to compromise.
Senator MIKULSKI: Hey, what happened to the party of Lincoln? Hey, what happened to the party of Teddy Roosevelt? Hey, what happened to the party of Ronald Reagan, when people could come together and find a sensible center to solve the nation's problems?
SEABROOK: And Republicans punch back that Democrats are addicted to government spending. In fact, Hatch today got in his own whack at the president.
Senator HATCH: Look, I like him personally. There's no personal animosity there, but he's just not doing the job. And frankly, there's good reason because he's got to satisfy a whole bunch of special interest groups that live off the federal government.
SEABROOK: And so, strangely, a consensus seems to be forming that the real problem with these negotiations is extremely rigid ideology. They just can't agree on who is being rigid.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.