Obama urges quick debt limit compromise
WASHINGTON - President Obama bluntly told Republican congressional leaders yesterday they must compromise quickly if the government is to avoid an unprecedented default, adding, “Don’t call my bluff’’ by passing a short-term debt limit increase he has threatened to veto.
The presidential warning, directed at House majority leader Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, marked an acrimonious end to a two-hour negotiating session at the White House that produced no evident progress toward a compromise. Another round of talks is set for today.
But with a threatened default less than three weeks away, the Treasury said the annual deficit was on a pace to exceed $1 trillion for the third year in a row.
With the negotiations at a seeming standstill, Republicans drew a warning of a different sort, from an unlikely source - the party’s Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
In an interview with radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham, McConnell warned fellow conservatives that failure to raise the debt limit would probably ensure Obama’s reelection in 2012.
Republicans are demanding deep spending cuts as the price for agreeing to raise the debt limit, but the talks have bogged down over Obama’s demand for tax increases that Republicans say they won’t accept.
McConnell predicted that if Congress fails to act, Obama will argue “that Republicans are making the economy worse and try to convince the public, maybe with some merit, if people start not getting their Social Security checks and military families start getting letters saying their service people overseas don’t get paid.’’
“You know, it’s an argument he has a good chance of winning, and all of a sudden we [Republicans] have co-ownership of a bad economy,’’ McConnell said. “That is a very bad positioning going into an election.’’
McConnell said his first choice was to reach a good compromise with Obama.
Short of that, “my second obligation is to my party . . . to prevent them from being sucked into a horrible position politically that would allow the president probably to get reelected because we didn’t handle this difficult situation correctly.’’
Bipartisan talks are scheduled to resume today, and Cantor quoted Obama as saying that the time for decisions was growing short.