WASHINGTON – President Obama this morning ramped up the pressure on Republicans to agree to compromise legislation that would increase the country’s debt limit while cutting $4 trillion in federal spending, including on entitlement programs, and raising taxes on wealthier Americans.
“We might as well do it now, pull off the Band-aid, eat our peas,’’ he said during a news conference in the White House Briefing Room. “If not now, when? Let’s step up. Let’s do it.’’
Obama said he will not sign a short-term deal that would require revisiting the debt issue in a month or two.
“This is the United States of America. We don’t manage our affairs in three-month increments,’’ he said. “We’re going to resolve this and we’re going to resolve this for a reasonable period of time and in a serious way.’’
The presidential statement and news conference follows a reportedly contentious meeting with congressional leaders from both parties last night, convened to reach agreement over legislation to raise the nation’s borrowing limit.
The country’s debt is set to exceed the legal limit of $14.3 trillion next month and Congress must raise that limit or risk sending the nation into default, an event that the administration and economists say with wreak havoc on the American and global economy.
But Democrats and the GOP have been mired in a standoff for weeks, stymied by political and ideological differences over taxes and the size of the federal government. The Republican majority in the House has said it won’t vote to increase the debt limit without significant spending cuts. Democrats says they won’t agree to large cuts without tax increases on wealthier Americans and big business to help offset them.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner suggested yesterday that if no agreement is reached by Aug. 2, his agency’s ability to cut social security checks to some 55 million americans could be in jeopardy.
The statements on Sunday political talk shows followed backpedaling the day before from House Speaker John Boehner, who ruled out a potential agreement the two sides had been working on that would raise the debt limit and cut $4 trillion in federal spending. Boehner nixed the deal because it included tax increases and said he would support a smaller, shorter term agreement that included $2 trillion in cuts and no tax increases.
Democrats still are pushing for the larger deal and have proposed eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies and for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
“They’re going to have to compromise just like Democrats are going to have to compromise,’’ Obama said this morning.
Boehner’s office said after the meeting last night that the speaker told attendees, including the president, that he believes the smaller deal is the most viable option right now. “The speaker restated the fundamental principles that must be met for any increase in the debt limit: spending cuts and reforms that are greater than the amount of the increase, restraints on future spending and no tax hikes,’’ his office said.
Obama is scheduled to meet with Boehner and other congressional leaders again at the White House this afternoon.
“We’re going to meet every single day until we get this thing resolved,’’ the president said.