‘Get it done,’ Obama challenges GOP on debt talks
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a blunt challenge to Republicans in Congress, President Barack Obama insisted Wednesday that elimination of selected tax breaks for oil companies and the super-wealthy must be included in any deficit reduction plan.
“You stay here. Let’s get it done,” he all-but-lectured lawmakers, holding open the possibility of keeping Congress in Washington unless there is significant progress by week’s end on a deal to cut deficits, raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit and avert a threatened financial crisis.
He said a plan must be in place by Aug. 2, a date he called “a hard deadline.”
Obama drew a swift rebuttal from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who issued a statement saying, “The president is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the House. The votes simply aren’t there — and they aren’t going to be there, because the American people know tax hikes destroy jobs.”
At his first White House news conference in three months, lasting a little over an hour, Obama also called on Congress to renew a payroll tax cut that took effect on Jan 1, one of several steps he said lawmakers can take quickly to help reduce 9.1 percent unemployment.
Although he declined to announce support for legalizing gay marriage, he defended his record on rights for homosexual Americans, saying he had done more to advance their cause than any of his 43 presidential predecessors.
On the deficit and economy, Obama said both parties must be prepared to “take on their sacred cows” as part of the negotiations, with Democrats accepting cuts in government programs.
At the same time, he said any agreement must include increased government revenue. Attempting to blunt Republican criticism, he said he also wants to extend existing middle class tax cuts.
“The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund companies and jet owners,” he said.
Obama’s last previous full-fledged news conference was in March. In the intervening months, the economic recovery has slowed, the president has announced a plan to begin withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and the administration has joined an international military coalition working to prevent the rout of rebels hoping to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
The president stepped to the podium not long after the International Monetary Fund publicly urged lawmakers to raise the U.S. debt limit, now $14.3 trillion, and warned that failure to do so could produce a spike in interest rates and “severe shock to the economy and world financial markets.”
The IMF recommended a long-term strategy for reducing red ink, warning that cutting deficits too quickly could slow the weak recovery of the U.S. economy.
The budget deficit is projected to reach a record $1.4 trillion for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
Republicans in Congress have been insistent in recent days that any deficit reduction be limited to spending cuts, including reductions in benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and exclude additional revenues.