President Obama on Wednesday used his harshest language yet to urge congressional Republicans to agree to end tax breaks “for millionaires and billionaires” as part of a deal to reduce the annual budget deficit, saying that the lawmakers’ refusal to consider any tax increases is indefensible.
But he also predicted that Republicans would reconsider their position as the deadline nears for raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion limit on borrowing.
At a press conference in the East Room of the White House, Obama said he is willing to cut spending on a range of programs by more than $1 trillion, to trim the defense budget and to look for ways to control entitlement costs. But he said Republicans must agree to allow taxes to rise on the wealthiest Americans and to eliminate tax breaks for oil companies and corporate jet owners.
“It would be hard for Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done,” Obama said. “What we’ve seen in negotiations here in Washington is a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on cable news.”
“Hopefully leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and do the right thing for the American people,” the president added.
Obama also expressed impatience over the pace of talks on a spending plan, as the Treasury Department’s Aug. 2 deadline looms for raising the borrowing ceiling before the United States defaults on its debt. And he rebutted Republican criticism that he has not been involved enough in negotiations, saying that he has led debate on the issue and that it’s now time for Congress to make a decision.
“They need to do their job,” Obama said, adding that lawmakers should have to cancel their summer recess trips if they can’t strike a deal. He also compared the stalling with his two daughters’ efficiency, saying that if Malia and Sasha could do their homework on time, there’s no reason that Congress should be taking so long to work out a plan.
The bulk of the press conference focused on economic issues, but the president also discussed the United States’ role in Libya and the question of gay marriage in the wake of New York’s new law allowing the practice.
Negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans over reining in the nation’s debt have stalled over the issue of taxes. Republicans are demanding a deal to reduce the deficit in exchange for raising the federal limit on borrowing.
Later in the day, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Republican lawmakers would not back down from their stand against any tax increases.
“The President is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the House,” Boehner said. “The votes simply aren’t there – and they aren’t going to be there, because the American people know tax hikes destroy jobs. They also know Washington has been on a spending binge for many years, and they will only tolerate a debt limit increase if we stop it.”