Obama on debt limits: My daughters do homework on time, why can't Congress?

Speaker of the House John Boehner said President Obama has been AWOL on the debt talks, but Obama noted that Congress will be out of town for a good chunk of the summer on vacation.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters / File
President Obama and his wife Michelle laugh as they attend the Presidential inaugural prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington on January 21, 2009.

A few hours after President Obama’s press conference Wednesday, Republican House Speaker John Boehner accused him of being “AWOL" – absent without leave – on the debt-reduction debate.

Mr. Obama does have a history of leaving details up to Congress. And until last week, it was Vice President Biden who represented the administration in deficit reduction talks with the deputies in the Republican leadership.

Now the principals have taken over. And Obama, in fact, says it’s Congress that’s been AWOL. With a little more than a month to go before the nation reaches the edge of a financial cliff, if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, Obama is calling on his interlocutors on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue to spend more time in Washington.

“If by the end of this week we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to, you know, start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done,” Obama said. “You know? They’re – they’re – they’re in one week, they’re out one week. And then they’re saying, Obama’s got to step in it.”

At this moment, Obama was at his most animated of the hour-plus press conference. Clearly, the criticism that he hasn’t shown adequate leadership on deficit reduction has reached him.

“I’ve got to say, I'm very amused when I start hearing comments about, well, the president needs to show more leadership on this,” Obama said.

Let the record show that between now and Aug. 2, the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session simultaneously for a grand total of nine days.

The bipartisan group No Labels backed up Obama on his admonition that Congress stick around more. “No Labels could not agree with the president more,” stated the group's co-founder Mark McKinnon, a former campaign aide to ex-President George W. Bush, in a statement. “It’s not rocket science. It is going to take both the House and the Senate in Washington, at the same time, working alongside President Obama to close the deal.”

Obama also compared Congress to procrastinating schoolchildren, who can’t get their homework done on time. Though in the Obama household, he bragged, Malia and Sasha are models of scholarly organization.

“You know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time,” the president said.

“Impressive,” a reporter offered.

“It is impressive,” Obama said. “They don't wait until the night before. They're not pulling all-nighters.”

Wait till they’re in college.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.