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Debt limit crisis: what's happening today?

No weekend negotiations on the debt limit crisis, though President Obama has told top lawmakers to keep their schedules free. In their weekend addresses, Obama and designated hitter Sen. Orrin Hatch made familiar arguments.

By Staff writer / July 16, 2011

President Obama addressed shared sacrifice in order to reduce national debt in his weekly address, Saturday. There will be no weekend negotiations on the debt limit crisis but Obama asked top lawmakers to keep their schedules free.

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The nation is hurtling towards debtmageddon, so Democrats and Republicans are spending the weekend in intense negotiations over possible plans to raise the government’s borrowing limit. Aren’t they?

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Umm, not that we know of. There aren’t any face-to-face negotiations scheduled this weekend between President Obama and Republican leaders, though that could change. The White House has told top lawmakers to keep their schedules free for a possible meeting, probably on Sunday, according to Politico.

What the two parties are doing is trying to frame their positions on fiscal issues in a manner that presages arguments they might be making in the 2012 election campaign.

For President Obama, that means he’s saying the whole thing is about his effort to protect the middle-class, as he aims to win back independent voters alienated by his health care reforms, among other policies.

In his Saturday video address, Obama said that he was willing to take a “balanced” approach to putting the nation’s fiscal house in order, including some measures his own party does not like, such as reforming Medicare.

The truth is, you can’t solve the deficit problem without big spending cuts, said Obama. But neither can you solve it without raising taxes – or, as Obama defined it, closing loopholes that middle-class taxpayers don’t get, and asking wealthy Americans to pay their fair share.

“I don’t think oil companies should keep getting special tax breaks when they’re making tens of billions in profits. I don’t think hedge fund managers should pay taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries,” said Obama in his weekly address.

Republicans, meanwhile, appealed to their own base of voters – and fiscal conservatives who lean independent – by portraying the debt crisis as a failure of Washington’s political culture.

Tax increases are not the answer, said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah in the Republican response to Obama’s address.

“Washington has consistently demonstrated that it cannot control its urge to spend,” said Sen. Hatch, who's feeling the heat from the tea party right in his own tough re-election bid.

The long-term answer to this problem is to construct a mechanism that will prevent weak lawmakers from continuing to vote to disperse monies the nation does not have, according to Hatch. That would be a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

“This kind of strong budgetary reform would put us on a path to fiscal health and would prevent this White House or any future White House from forcing more debt on the American people,” said Hatch.

A Balanced Budget Amendment is part of the “Cut Cap and Balance” budget plan the House is scheduled to vote on next week.

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