On debt talks, Obama optimistic GOP will do 'the responsible thing'
Obama acknowledged Wednesday that entitlement programs are on the table in deficit and debt talks. He said he hopes Republicans, who oppose new tax revenues, will see a need to 'move off their maximalist position.'
President Obama sounded an optimistic note Wednesday on debt-ceiling talks with Republicans, a little more than a month before the Aug. 2 deadline, when the federal government risks beginning to default on its obligations.Skip to next paragraph
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The negotiations are log-jammed over the issue of tax increases. Democrats are adamant that some subsidies and tax loopholes be eliminated in the name of deficit reduction; Republicans are adamant that anything that can be called a tax increase stay off the table.
But in the end, Mr. Obama said at a White House press conference, “My expectation is that they'll do the responsible thing.”
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The president also acknowledged that entitlements are on the table. “And that's always difficult politically,” Obama said. “But I've been willing to say we need to see where we can reduce the cost of health-care spending and Medicare and Medicaid in the out years, not by shifting costs onto seniors, as some have proposed, but rather by actually reducing those costs.”
Republicans have taken a big hit in public opinion over their budget, which turns Medicare into a voucher program and Medicaid into block grants. Obama opposes this approach, but by agreeing that entitlements need to be on the table, the president is throwing them a little life line. Now he wants them to reciprocate.
Obama said that if “everybody else is willing to take on their sacred cows and do tough things in order to achieve the goal of real deficit reduction,” then it’s the Republicans’ turn to do the same. He repeated examples his administration has been using for days, such as removing tax breaks for corporate jets and eliminating subsidies for the oil and gas industries.
“My belief is, is that the Republican leadership in Congress will, hopefully sooner rather than later, come to the conclusion that they need to make the right decisions for the country, that everybody else has been willing to move off their maximalist position and they need to do the same,” Obama said.
In his hour-plus press conference, Obama also harkened back to his old campaign mantra about the “fierce urgency of now” – a quote from the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In the 2011 version, it’s the fierce urgency of “right now.” He repeated the phrase “right now” 25 times during his session with reporters.