Obama Turns Up Heat On Congressional Republicans
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President Obama is turning up the heat on Congressional Republicans. He wants them to agree to a deficit reduction plan even if it includes some tax increases. So far they've resisted. In a moment, we'll hear more about the Republican wall of opposition and whether there are cracks in it.
First, NPR's Scott Horsley has more on the president's latest call on lawmakers to move quickly on cutting spending and on raising the debt ceiling.
SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama has made his case for what he calls a balanced deficit reduction plan in a variety of venues - on the golf course with House Speaker John Boehner, in a private meeting with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and yesterday in a White House news conference that served as a kind of progress report directed at the American people.
President BARACK OBAMA: We've identified what spending cuts are possible. We've identified what defense cuts are possible. We've identified what health care cuts are possible. We've identified what loopholes in the tax code can be closed that would also raise revenue.
HORSLEY: It's that last point, raising revenue, that's most controversial, at least with Republicans in Congress. What the president calls closing tax loopholes the GOP regards as tax increases. And so far Republicans have been unwilling to go along.
In his news conference, Mr. Obama deliberately chose tax targets that are not likely to generate much public sympathy: oil companies, hedge fund managers, and the owners of corporate jets. The president says all of these can afford to pay a little more.
President OBAMA: I don't think that's real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that.
HORSLEY: Republican leaders insist the government should narrow its deficit through spending cuts alone. But Mr. Obama argues unless the plan also includes some increase in tax revenue, the resulting cuts will be too painful.
President OBAMA: Before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children's education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it's only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys.
HORSLEY: Mr. Obama says cutting the deficit will require tough choices on all sides. Democrats will have to give ground on Medicare spending, and the GOP will have to compromise on taxes. That argument did not appear to persuade Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. He's the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
Senator ORRIN HATCH (Republican, Utah): Their answer to everything in this administration and on the other side of the floor is to increase taxes for everything. I guarantee you, this group will spend every dime they get, there's no question about it.
HORSLEY: Many lawmakers want to see progress in cutting the deficit before they'll vote to raise the debt ceiling. Mr. Obama stressed the debt ceiling must be increased by August 2nd, not just to accommodate future government spending, but also to cover the bills Congress has already run up.
President OBAMA: This is not a situation where, you know, Congress is going to say, okay, we won't buy this car or we won't take this vacation. They took the vacation. They bought the car. And now they're saying maybe we don't have to pay. Or we don't have to pay as fast as we said we were going to, or - that's not how responsible families act. And we're the greatest nation on Earth. And we can't act that way.
HORSLEY: The president also dismissed the idea, popularized by some conservatives, that the government could avoid default by simply using its cash to make interest payments while deferring other bills. Mr. Obama likened that to paying your mortgage while failing to pay your car loan.
President OBAMA: Are we really going to start paying interest to Chinese who hold treasuries, and we're not going to pay folks their Social Security checks?
HORSLEY: The president says he still believes there's time to make a deficit-cutting deal and raise the debt ceiling before the August 2nd deadline, but he urged lawmakers not to wait till the last minute. The economic fallout if the government fails to pay its bills would be significant and unpredictable, Mr. Obama said, and that's not a good thing.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.
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