Obama Holds Town Hall At University Of Maryland

President Obama held a town hall at the University of Maryland in College Park. There, he pushed for a balanced deficit reduction plan.

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President Obama got out of town this morning - but not too far. He held a town hall meeting in College Park, Maryland, just over the line from Washington, D.C. and he was home in time for lunch. Still, it was his first public event outside of Washington in almost a month.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, it was one more effort to recruit the public on the debt ceiling debate - and this part of the public was pretty friendly.

ARI SHAPIRO: President Obama often begins his road show by saying how good it is to leave Washington.

President BARACK OBAMA: Don't get me wrong; there's nothing I enjoy more than sitting hour after hour day after day debating the fine points of the federal budget with members of Congress.

SHAPIRO: Those debates may be over soon, whether the president likes it or not. The deadline for raising the debt ceiling and avoiding default is just a week and a half away.

Mr. OBAMA: It is not an option for us to default. My challenge then is I've got to get something passed - I've got to get 218 votes in the House of Representatives.

SHAPIRO: The holdup is exactly the same as it was when these talks began. Republicans insist on deficit reductions in exchange for raising the debt ceiling; President Obama says deficit reductions cannot come through spending cuts alone. He wants to end subsidies, loopholes, and tax breaks for the wealthy.

To Republicans, that's a tax hike and many of them have taken an oath not to raise taxes. President Obama said he's willing to slay some of his own party's sacred cows and Republicans should do the same.

Mr. OBAMA: The easiest thing for a politician to do is to give you more stuff and ask less in return. It's a lot harder for a politician to say we've got to cut back on what you're getting and you've got to pay a little more.

SHAPIRO: He said a mix of cuts and taxes is not some wild-eyed socialist position.

Mr. OBAMA: It's a position that's been taken by every Democratic and Republican president who've signed major deficit deals in the past, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton.

SHAPIRO: Polls show it's a position supported by a majority of Americans, including republicans.

Twenty-two-year-old Steve Glickman is a graduate student at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. He's a republican, and before the president spoke, Glickman said he's ready to see his party bend on the policy of not raising taxes.

Mr. STEVE GLICKMAN (Graduate Student, University of Maryland, School of Public Policy): It's a great policy but I'm not sure in the current economy that we're in that it's sustainable. And unfortunately, I think the Republicans need to face more of the reality than give in on certain cuts.

SHAPIRO: Many in this mostly college-aged audience expressed frustration that the grownups might not finish their homework on time. Twenty-two-year-old Andy McCracken just graduated from American University.

Mr. ANDY MCCRACKEN: More than anything we want to make sure that we're not just kicking the can down the road because in this situation we are that can and we're trying to kick back.

SHAPIRO: McCracken is leading a group of 120 student body presidents who are urging national leaders to reach a compromise and think big.

Mr. MCCRACKEN: When we're in college we can't get extensions from our professors on papers, so we're hoping the U.S. government doesn't try to get an extension on something as important this debt ceiling.

SHAPIRO: President Obama has said he would sign an extension of a few days, but only if Congress has agreed to a broader deal in principle. Heading into the weekend, there is no sign of such a deal, and lawmakers have gone home. But they return next week with the final exam looming and it might be time to start pulling all-nighters.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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