GOP Scoffs At Raising Taxes To Lower Deficit

The Senate canceled its planned July Fourth recess and instead will work on passing legislation raising the government's borrowing authority. The Obama administration is locked in a dispute with Republicans over how to bring down the deficit as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling and prevent Washington from default. The GOP opposes any tax increases.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Republican presidential candidates will not be the only politicians working during this holiday week. Rather than take a recess, as they normally would, the U.S. Senate will be in session this week. It was that or face criticism from voters that members were away celebrating the Fourth while the nation's credit rating is at risk.

Also working is NPR's Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Monday mornings.

Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Hi, Steve. Nice to be back.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Happy Independence Day to you.

ROBERTS: Same to you. Happy Fourth.

INSKEEP: So, Senate leaders canceled this recess, but does that mean they're making any progress?

ROBERTS: They're pretty cranky, actually, about being here this week. And they know that it's really more about symbolism than substance, so that makes them even crankier. But the truth is that the meetings convened by Vice President Biden have gone a long way towards solving the problem of trying to raise the ceiling on the national debt while making some cuts in the deficit.

So it's now up to the leaders on both sides, the leaders in Congress and the president to finish it. We heard some tiny movement from Republican leaders yesterday. Arizona's John McCain talked about revenue raisers, without being specific. Texas's John Cornyn says that he would be opened to eliminating tax breaks and corporate subsidies. And, of course, the Senate has started down that path with eliminating tax breaks for ethanol.

So if they could find others that would give the Democrats some cover and be able so they could say that it's not just cuts from programs their constituents care about that have happened. And so far that has been the case. So far Republicans have been basically winning on all of these big votes, getting cuts without any tax increases. The Democrats need something to take home.

INSKEEP: Well, the president, President Obama is saying he wants a deal by July 22nd. That's less than three weeks away now. Is that realistic?

ROBERTS: Well, it depends on what the real drop-dead date is for the debt running out, the ability to pay our bills running out. The Treasury Department says it's August 2nd. The president is trying to get Congress to act before that, so it really does not come to a crisis or a temporary default, which some people are talking about.

And, you know, there is some talk of a mini-deal instead of doing the whole big thing that would hold over through the next election, so that we are not in this crisis mode all the way through next year. And maybe that's what will happen instead of some big, grand scheme. But I would suspect August 2nd will be the date, not July 22nd.

INSKEEP: Cokie, I want to ask you a question as someone who's covered Congress for a while. How long have you covered Congress, Cokie?

ROBERTS: Oh, basically decades Steve, just forever and ever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Thirty, thirty-five years, ever since you were about seven, I believe.

ROBERTS: Yeah, right. That's it.

INSKEEP: And you've also written books about the founding fathers. Here we are on Independence Day, and we're living in a world that they created. How would they respond, do you think, to the way that Congress is acting now?

ROBERTS: I think they'd recognize it completely. John Adams wrote a letter from the Continental Congress to his wife Abigail, who was desperate for him to come home because she was having to take care of everything on her own. And he wrote and said, very sarcastically: I am surrounded by great men who talk and talk and talk.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: So this is not something that would be foreign to them at all, I think. You know, the one thing that you can say, though, is that in the end, with great difficulty, those men were able to compromise. I mean, that's what the Constitution is, is a great compromise. And maybe this Congress could take a lesson from that.

INSKEEP: Cokie, always a pleasure talking with you.

ROBERTS: Nice to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Cokie Roberts joins us most Monday mornings.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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