Political Buzz July 15, 2011: Debt Ceiling Showdown: Obama’s Second Press Conference This Week — Boehner also Speaks to Press


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


President Obama holds a news conference
White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 7/15/11

According to a Gallup poll released this week, 20% of Americans favor an approach that includes only spending cuts. Nearly a third — 32% — said they favored a deal created “equally with spending cuts and tax increases” and 30% said the deal should be made “mostly with spending cuts.” Only 4% favored a deal done just with tax increases. – USA Today, 7-15-11

Various options for Obama, debt showdown foes in Congress: President Barack Obama, House Republicans and Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., have competing ideas about how to handle the need to increase the government’s borrowing limit and cut the budget. Highlights include…. – WaPo, 7-15-11


House Speaker John A. Boehner spoke to reporters at the Capitol on Friday morning about the debt negotiations.

Philip Scott Andrews/The New York TimesHouse Speaker John A. Boehner spoke to reporters at the Capitol on Friday morning about the debt negotiations.

“Listen, we’re in the fourth quarter here. Time and time again Republicans have offered serious proposals to cut spending and address these issues, and I think it’s time for the Democrats to get serious as well. We asked the president to lead. We asked him to put forward a plan – not a speech, a real plan – and he hasn’t.” — John Boehner

“This is not some abstract issue. Congress has run up the credit card and we now have an obligation to pay our bills.” — President Barack Obama

“We have a unique opportunity to do something big. We have a chance to stabilize America’s finances for a decade, 15 years, or 20 years, if we are willing to seize the moment.” — President Barack Obama

“You have 80 percent of the American people who support a balanced approach. Eighty percent of the American people support an approach that includes revenues and includes cuts. So the notion that somehow the American people aren’t sold is not the problem,” “The problem is members of Congress are dug in ideologically into various positions because they boxed themselves in with previous… — President Barack Obam at a White House briefing room news conference.

John Boehner: The President said today that the American people are “sold” on job-crushing tax hikes. Most Americans would beg to differ. Our looming debt crisis isn’t the result of Washington not taxing enough; it’s the result of our government spending too much. It’s absurd & self-destructive to continue dumping taxpayer money into a failed ‘stimulus’ philosophy. The White House must step up & embrace real spending reductions. — — John Boehner

    • Full Text July 15, 2011: President Obama’s Second Press Conference This Week on the Debt Ceiling Negotiations — WH, 7-15-11
  • Obama’s hands-on negotiation a political necessity: President Barack Obama’s decision to haul lawmakers in day by day to negotiate a debt deal comes down to reality: He has no other choice. The president has essentially cleared his agenda to deal with one enormous crisis.
    The threat of an unprecedented government default, combined with the shrinking time left to prevent it, has prompted an extraordinary dynamic in a town of divided government and divisive politics. For five straight days, the president and leaders of Congress have gathered in the Cabinet Room to try to work it out…. – AP, 7-15-11
  • House to Vote on $2.4 Trillion Debt Increase, Cuts: House Republicans will vote next week on legislation to limit spending and tie a $2.4 trillion increase in the U.S. debt ceiling to a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, a plan President Barack Obama dismissed as not “serious.”
    While the measure may win acceptance by the Republican-led House, it can’t pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, said Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House’s No. 2 Democrat. It will let Republicans put their stance on the record while offering no immediate resolution to talks in Washington aimed at reaching a deficit-cutting deal by an Aug. 2 deadline for raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
    “You’ll probably see the House vote on a couple of things just to make political statements,” Obama said at a White House news conference today. The Republican plan, which would mandate spending cuts of at least $2.4 trillion without increasing tax revenue, “doesn’t seem like a serious plan to me,” the president said.
    A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both House and Senate, and then ratification by three-fourths of the 50 states. “We don’t need a constitutional amendment to” revamp the government’s finances, Obama said. “What we need to do is do our jobs.”… – Bloomberg, 7-15-11
  • House Republicans Plan Vote on Deficit: With budget negotiations with the White House stalled, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said Friday that the House would vote next week on a three-part plan to cut the deficit, cap federal spending as a share of the economy and amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget.
    The plan, which has a companion in the Senate, would represent the House position in the final stages of the debate as the federal government nears the limit of its borrowing power. While it would not appear to have a chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, and President Obama is opposed, it could provide a legislative avenue to increasing the debt limit as it makes it way through Congress.
    The House Republican leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, said the House would move on its own because the president’s deficit-reduction proposals fell far short of what was needed…. – NYT, 7-15-11
  • Obama calls on Congress to act on big debt ceiling deal: President Obama challenged Congress on Friday to put the country on the right fiscal footing for decades to come by slashing spending and increasing revenue as part of a package to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit.
    In a news conference at the White House after five days of often-tense closed-door talks with congressional leaders, Obama said there is still time to put together a “big deal” to solve the nation’s debt and deficits problem for the long term and raise the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline imposed by the Treasury Department.
    He cautioned, however, that time is running short to avoid the first government default on its loans, something Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and a host of economists have warned would be catastrophic. Obama said he is asking leaders to come up with a solution before the end of the weekend. “If they show me a serious plan, I’m ready to move,” Obama said…. – USA Today, 7-15-11
  • Obama calls on Congress to ‘seize the moment’ on debt talks: President Obama with new immediacy today reiterated his call for a sweeping plan to deal with the nation’s long-term debt problems. He warned GOP lawmakers that time is running out on a deal that would prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its financial obligations.
    In his second news conference this week on the issue, Obama called on lawmakers to give him a “serious” plan to raise the debt ceiling within the next 24 or 36 hours. But he emphasized the need for Congress to “put politics aside” and tackle an “ambitious” solution to the nation’s deficit problems–not just a quick fix.
    “We have a unique opportunity to do something big,” Obama said. “We have a chance to stabilize America’s finances for a decade, for 15 or 20 years, if we are willing to seize the moment.”
    But the president acknowledged it would be “tough” to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on a significant proposal before Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department says the U.S. will begin defaulting on its more than $14 trillion debt. Obama warned that if nothing is done, Americans could be facing financial catastrophe, including more job loss and potentially higher interest rates, which he described as “effectively a tax increase on everybody.”… – AP, 7-15-11
  • Obama Reiterates Desire for Comprehensive Budget Package: In a news conference, President Obama held out hope Friday that a broad deal could be reached on raising the debt ceiling.Doug Mills/The New York TimesPresident Obama held out hope Friday that a broad deal could be reached on raising the debt ceiling.
    President Obama on Friday reiterated his desire to reach a grand bargain that would deal with the nation’s long-term debt problems even as leaders in Washington take action to avoid a financial default by the government.
    Mr. Obama said that he was encouraged by comments from lawmakers in both parties signaling an understanding of the need to increase the nation’s debt ceiling in the next two weeks.
    “The American people expect more than that. They expect that we try to solve our problem,” Mr. Obama said. “We have a chance to stabilize America’s finances for a decade, for 15 years or 20 years, if we are willing to seize the moment.”… – NYT, 7-15-11
  • Boehner: Obama has no debt plan. Republicans do: The House next week will take a vote to raise the debt ceiling and pass a balanced budget amendment, House Republican leaders said today.
    The plan is unlikely to go anywhere, since a balanced budget amendment would likely fail in the Democrat-led Senate, but GOP leaders nevertheless called it a serious plan to raise the debt ceiling. They said President Obama and Democrats have failed to come up with an equally serious plan…. – CBS News, 7-15-11
  • Debt ceiling adversaries take a time out to face the microphones: With roughly a week left for President Obama and congressional leaders to reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling, both sides took time out to argue their case to the public…. –
    With roughly a week to go for President Obama and congressional leaders to reach agreement on raising the nation’s debt ceiling and prevent a government default, both sides in the debate took time out from negotiations to argue their case to the public.
    Friday morning began on Capitol Hill with House Speaker John Boehner (R) telling reporters that congressional Democrats and the president had not been serious in the Republicans’ sometimes heated negotiations with the White House…. – CS Monitor, 7-15-11
  • Debt ceiling: financial world warns Washington to hurry up: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke warns of a ‘self-inflicted’ wound, and Wall Street firms see dire consequences, if stalemate over how to raise the US debt ceiling persists…. – CS Monitor, 7-15-11
  • Allan Lichtman: Obama’s hands-on negotiation a political necessity: “It’s absolutely remarkable,” said Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University.
    “Obama has got to get this done,” Lichtman said. “Even if people blame the Republicans in Congress, he’s the president. And if things go rotten on his watch, he pays for it. This is his moment. And he knew it was going to be trouble, because Republicans have very little incentive to make a deal.” – AP, 7-15-11

Full Text Debt Ceiling Showdown, July 15, 2011: President Obama’s Second Press Conference This Week on the Debt Ceiling Negotiations



President Obama holds a news conference
White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 7/15/11

The President on Debt Negotiations: 80 Percent of the American People Support a Balanced Approach

Source: WH, 7-15-11

President Obama today challenged Congressional leaders to step back and look at what is good for the country in a press conference held to address the ongoing negotiations on raising the debt ceiling.

He stressed that while Washington has been “obsessing” over the debate, what the “American people are obsessing about right now is that unemployment is still way too high and too many folks’ homes are still underwater, and prices of things that they need, not just that they want, are going up a lot faster than their paychecks are if they’ve got a job.”

The President also said that he retains hope that the talks will produce a meaningful outcome and that there is still time to put together a “big deal”.

Press Conference by the President

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

Source: WH Transcript, 7-15-11

10:58 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  As you know, yesterday we had another meeting with the congressional leaders.  We’re not having one today, so I thought it would be useful to give you guys an update on where we are.

All the congressional leaders have reiterated the desire to make sure that the United States does not default on our obligations, and that the full faith and credit of the United States is preserved.  That is a good thing.  I think we should not even be this close to a deadline on this issue; this should have been taken care of earlier.  But it is encouraging that everybody believes that this is something that has to be addressed.

And for the general public — I’ve said this before but I just want to reiterate — this is not some abstract issue.  These are obligations that the United States has taken on in the past.  Congress has run up the credit card, and we now have an obligation to pay our bills.  If we do not, it could have a whole set of adverse consequences.  We could end up with a situation, for example, where interest rates rise for everybody all throughout the country, effectively a tax increase on everybody, because suddenly whether you’re using your credit or you’re trying to get a loan for a car or a student loan, businesses that are trying to make payroll, all of them could end up being impacted as a consequence of a default.

Now, what is important is that even as we raise the debt ceiling, we also solve the problem of underlying debt and deficits.  I’m glad that congressional leaders don’t want to default, but I think the American people expect more than that.  They expect that we actually try to solve this problem, we get our fiscal house in order.

And so during the course of these discussions with congressional leaders, what I’ve tried to emphasize is we have a unique opportunity to do something big.  We have a chance to stabilize America’s finances for a decade, for 15 years, or 20 years, if we’re wiling to seize the moment.

Now, what that would require would be some shared sacrifice and a balanced approach that says we’re going to make significant cuts in domestic spending.  And I have already said I am willing to take down domestic spending to the lowest percentage of our overall economy since Dwight Eisenhower.

It also requires cuts in defense spending, and I’ve said that in addition to the $400 billion that we’ve already cut from defense spending, we’re willing to look for hundreds of billions more.

It would require us taking on health care spending.  And that includes looking at Medicare and finding ways that we can stabilize the system so that it is available not just for this generation but for future generations.

And it would require revenues.  It would require, even as we’re asking the person who needs a student loan or the senior citizen or people — veterans who are trying to get by on a disability check — even as we’re trying to make sure that all those programs are affordable, we’re also saying to folks like myself that can afford it that we are able and willing to do a little bit more; that millionaires and billionaires can afford to do a little bit more; that we can close corporate loopholes so that oil companies aren’t getting unnecessary tax breaks or that corporate jet owners aren’t getting unnecessary tax breaks.

If we take that approach, then I am confident that we can not only impress the financial markets, but more importantly, we can actually impress the American people that this town can actually get something done once in a while.

Now, let me acknowledge what everybody understands:  It is hard to do a big package.  My Republican friends have said that they’re not willing to do revenues and they have repeated that on several occasions.

My hope, though, is that they’re listening not just to lobbyists or special interests here in Washington, but they’re also listening to the American people.  Because it turns out poll after poll, many done by your organizations, show that it’s not just Democrats who think we need to take a balanced approach; it’s Republicans as well.

The clear majority of Republican voters think that any deficit reduction package should have a balanced approach and should include some revenues.  That’s not just Democrats; that’s the majority of Republicans.  You’ve got a whole slew of Republican officials from previous administrations.  You’ve got a bipartisan commission that has said that we need revenues.

So this is not just a Democratic understanding; this is an understanding that I think the American people hold that we should not be asking sacrifices from middle-class folks who are working hard every day, from the most vulnerable in our society — we should not be asking them to make sacrifices if we’re not asking the most fortunate in our society to make some sacrifices as well.

So I am still pushing for us to achieve a big deal.  But what I also said to the group is if we can’t do the biggest deal possible, then let’s still be ambitious; let’s still try to at least get a down payment on deficit reduction.  And that we can actually accomplish without huge changes in revenue or significant changes in entitlements, but we could still send a signal that we are serious about this problem.

The fallback position, the third option and I think the least attractive option, is one in which we raise the debt ceiling but we don’t make any progress on deficit and debt.  Because if we take that approach, this issue is going to continue to plague us for months and years to come.  And I think it’s important for the American people that everybody in this town set politics aside, that everybody in this town set our individual interests aside, and we try to do some tough stuff.  And I’ve already taken some heat from my party for being willing to compromise.  My expectation and hope is, is that everybody, in the coming days, is going to be willing to compromise.

The last point I’ll make and then I’ll take questions — we are obviously running out of time.  And so what I’ve said to the members of Congress is that you need, over the next 24 to 36 hours, to give me some sense of what your plan is to get the debt ceiling raised through whatever mechanisms they can think about, and show me a plan in terms of what you’re doing for deficit and debt reduction.

If they show me a serious plan, I’m ready to move, even if requires some tough decisions on my part.  And I’m hopeful that over the next couple of days we’ll see logjam break — this logjam broken, because the American people I think understandably want to see Washington do its job.  All right?

So with that, let me see who’s on the list.  We’re going to start with Jake Tapper.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You’ve said that reducing the deficit will require shared sacrifice.  We know — we have an idea of the taxes that you would like to see raised on corporations and on Americans in the top two tax brackets, but we don’t yet know what you specifically are willing to do when it comes to entitlement spending.  In the interest of transparency, leadership, and also showing the American people that you have been negotiating in good faith, can you tell us one structural reform that you are willing to make to one of these entitlement programs that would have a major impact on the deficit?  Would you be willing to raise the retirement age?  Would you be willing to means test Social Security or Medicare?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve said that we are willing to look at all those approaches.  I’ve laid out some criteria in terms of what would be acceptable.  So, for example, I’ve said very clearly that we should make sure that current beneficiaries as much as possible are not affected.  But we should look at what can we do in the out-years, so that over time some of these programs are more sustainable.

I’ve said that means testing on Medicare, meaning people like myself, if — I’m going to be turning 50 in a week.  So I’m starting to think a little bit more about Medicare eligibility.  (Laughter.)  Yes, I’m going to get my AARP card soon — and the discounts.

But you can envision a situation where for somebody in my position, me having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays or things like that would be appropriate.  And, again, that could make a difference.  So we’ve been very clear about where we’re willing to go.

What we’re not willing to do is to restructure the program in the ways that we’ve seen coming out of the House over the last several months where we would voucherize the program and you potentially have senior citizens paying $6,000 more.  I view Social Security and Medicare as the most important social safety nets that we have.  I think it is important for them to remain as social insurance programs that give people some certainty and reliability in their golden years.

But it turns out that making some modest modifications in those entitlements can save you trillions of dollars.  And it’s not necessary to completely revamp the program.  What is necessary is to say how do we make some modifications, including, by the way, on the providers’ side.  I think that it’s important for us to keep in mind that drug companies, for example, are still doing very well through the Medicare program.  And although we have made drugs more available at a cheaper price to seniors who are in Medicare through the Affordable Care Act, there’s more work to potentially be done there.

So if you look at a balanced package even within the entitlement programs, it turns out that you can save trillions of dollars while maintaining the core integrity of the program.

Q    And the retirement age?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not going to get into specifics.  As I said, Jake, everything that you mentioned are things that we have discussed.  But what I’m not going to do is to ask for even — well, let me put it this way:  If you’re a senior citizen, and a modification potentially costs you a hundred or two hundred bucks a year more, or even if it’s not affecting current beneficiaries, somebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more.

The least I can do is to say that people who are making a million dollars or more have to do something as well.  And that’s the kind of tradeoff, that’s the kind of balanced approach and shared sacrifice that I think most Americans agree needs to happen.

Q    Thank you.


Q    Yes.  Thank you, Mr. President.  I just thought I heard you kind of open up the door to this middle-of-the-road possibility.  I think you said, “Show me a serious plan, and then I’m prepared to move.”  Just a few minutes before you came here, House Republicans said they’d be voting on this $2.4 trillion package as a balanced budget amendment.  Is that a serious plan?  Is it dead on arrival, or does it short-circuit what you expect to happen in the next 24, 36 hours?

THE PRESIDENT:  I haven’t looked at it yet, and I think — my expectation is that you’ll probably see the House vote on a couple of things just to make political statements.  But if you’re trying to get to $2.4 trillion without any revenue, then you are effectively gutting a whole bunch of domestic spending that is going to be too burdensome and is not going to be something that I would support.

Just to be very specific, we’ve identified over a trillion dollars in discretionary cuts, both in defense and domestic spending.  That’s hard to do.  I mean, that requires essentially that you freeze spending.  And when I say freeze, that means you’re not getting inflation so that these are programmatic cuts that, over the course of 10 years, you’d be looking at potentially a 10 percent cut in domestic spending.

Now, if you then double that number, you’re then, at that point, really taking a big bite out of programs that are really important to ordinary folks.  I mean, you’re talking then about students accumulating thousands of dollars more in student loan debt every year; you’re talking about federal workers and veterans and others potentially having to pay more in terms of their health care.

So I have not seen a credible plan — having gone through the numbers — that would allow you to get to $2.4 trillion without really hurting ordinary folks.  And the notion that we would be doing that, and not asking anything from the wealthiest among us or from closing corporate loopholes — that doesn’t seem like a serious plan to me.

I mean, the notion that, for example, oil company tax breaks, where the oil executives themselves say that they probably don’t need them, to have an incentive to go out and drill oil and make hundreds of billions of dollars — if we haven’t seen the other side even budge on that, then I think most Democrats would say that’s not a serious plan.

One last point on the balanced budget amendment.  I don’t know what version they’re going to be presenting, but some of the balanced budget amendments that have been floating up there — this cap — or cut, cap and balance, for example, when you look at the numbers, what you’re looking at is cuts of half-a-trillion dollars below the Ryan budget in any given year. I mean, it would require cutting Social Security or Medicare substantially.

And I think it’s important for everybody to understand that all of us believe that we need to get to a point where eventually we can balance the budget.  We don’t need a constitutional amendment to do that; what we need to do is to do our jobs.

And we have to do it the same way a family would do it.  A family, if they get over-extended and their credit card is too high, they don’t just stop paying their bills.  What they do is they say, how do we start cutting our monthly costs?  We keep on making payments, but we start cutting out the things that aren’t necessary.  And we do it in a way that maintains our credit rating.  We do it in a way that’s responsible — we don’t stop sending our kids to college; we don’t stop fixing the boiler or the roof that’s leaking.  We do things in a sensible, responsible way.  We can do the same thing when it comes to the federal budget.

Q    So within that $2 trillion band, if you end up going for this middle-of-the-road package, which I think you referred to as “the second option,” would that need to have, for your signature, some sort of stimulative measures — either payroll tax extension or the extension of the unemployment insurance?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think both would be good for the economy.  A payroll tax cut is something that has put a thousand dollars in the pocket of the typical American family over the last six, seven months and has helped offset some of the rising costs in gasoline and food.  And I think that American consumers and American businesses would benefit from a continuation of that tax cut next year.

Unemployment insurance.  Obviously unemployment is still too high.  And there are a lot of folks out there who are doing everything they can to find a job, but the market is still tight out there.  And for us to make sure that they are able to stay in their homes, potentially, or they’re able to still support their families, I think is very important and contributes to the overall economy.

So I think there are ways that you can essentially take a little over a trillion dollars in serious discretionary cuts, meaningful discretionary cuts, and then start building on top of that some cuts in non-health care mandatory payments, ethanol programs, or how we calculate various subsidies to various industries.  That could potentially be layered on.  And we could still do something like a tax cut for ordinary families that would end up benefiting the economy as a whole.

That is not my preferable option, though.  I just want to be clear.  I think about this like a layer cake.  You can do the bare minimum and then you can make some progressively harder decisions to solve the problem more and more.

And we’re in a position now where if we’re serious about this and everybody is willing to compromise, we can, as I said before, fix this thing probably for a decade or more.  And that’s something that I think would be good for the overall business climate and would encourage the American people that Washington actually is willing to take care of its business.

Q    Good for the business — for the climate, though, but not required for your signature — is that what I heard?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, I lost you on that one.

Q    So you’re saying these stimulative measures would be good for the business climate and good for the economy, but you’re not saying that they need to be included for you to sign either a $2 trillion or $4 trillion —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve got to look at an overall package, Hans.  I don’t know what the Speaker or Mr. McConnell are willing to do at this point.

Okay.  Chuck Todd.

Q    Mr. President, this process got kind of ugly in the last week.  And it appears from the outside that things even got a little futile at these meetings.  Any regrets on your role in how this went?  And do you have any regrets that you never took Bowles-Simpson, which was $4 trillion over 10 years, and spent the last six months selling that, which was a balanced package, to the American people?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  First of all, I think this notion that things got ugly is just not true.  We’ve been meeting every single day and we have had very constructive conversations.

The American people are not interested in the reality TV aspects of who said what and did somebody’s feelings get hurt.  They’re interested in solving the budget problem and the deficit and the debt.  And so that may be good for chatter in this town; it’s not something that folks out in the country are obsessing about.

I think with respect to Bowles-Simpson, it was important for us to — Bowles-Simpson wouldn’t have happened had I not set up the structure for it.  As you will recall, this was originally bipartisan legislation that some of the Republican supporters of decided to vote against when I said I supported it — that seems to be a pattern that I’m still puzzled by.  And so we set it up.  They issued a report.  And what I said was this provides us an important framework to begin discussions.

But there were aspects of Bowles-Simpson that I said from very early on were not the approach I would take.  I’ll give you an example.  On defense spending, a huge amount of their savings on the discretionary side came out of defense spending.  I think we need to cut defense, but as Commander-in-Chief, I’ve got to make sure that we’re cutting it in a way that recognizes we’re still in the middle of a war, we’re winding down another war, and we’ve got a whole bunch of veterans that we’ve got to care for as they come home.

And so what we’ve said is a lot of the components of Bowles-Simpson we are willing to embrace — for example, the domestic spending cuts that they recommend we’ve basically taken.  Others, like on defense, we have taken some but not all the recommendations, because it’s important for it to be consistent with our defense needs and our security needs.

The bottom line is that this is not an issue of salesmanship to the American people; the American people are sold.  The American people are sold.  I just want to repeat this.  The whole —

Q    You don’t think the whole debate would have been different?  You had Republican support on it.


Q    Tom Coburn, the Republican senator, signed onto it.

THE PRESIDENT:  Chuck, you have 80 percent of the American people who support a balanced approach.  Eighty percent of the American people support an approach that includes revenues and includes cuts.  So the notion that somehow the American people aren’t sold is not the problem.  The problem is members of Congress are dug in ideologically into various positions because they boxed themselves in with previous statements.

And so this is not a matter of the American people knowing what the right thing to do is.  This is a matter of Congress doing the right thing and reflecting the will of the American people.  And if we do that, we will have solved this problem.

Lori Montgomery.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask you about the two trains that seem to be rolling down the tracks on the Hill.  Specifically, Leader McConnell has laid out an elaborate plan to raise the debt limit.  He said last night that it looks like they’re going to pair that with a new committee that would be tasked with coming up with the big solution that you talk about by the end of the year.  Your comment on that proposal.

Meanwhile, in the House, they’re saying, well, we can be flexible on some of our demands if we could get a balanced budget amendment.  And they note that Vice President Biden voted for a BBA in 1997.  Is there any way that that could be part of a solution?  Is there any version of a BBA that you would support?

THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, for the consumption of the general public, BBA meaning a balanced budget amendment.

Q    Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think I already addressed this question earlier.  We don’t need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs.  The Constitution already tells us to do our jobs — and to make sure that the government is living within its means and making responsible choices.

And so, this notion that we’re going to go through a multiyear process instead of seizing the moment now and taking care of our problems is a typical Washington response.  We don’t need more studies.  We don’t need a balanced budget amendment.  We simply need to make these tough choices and be willing to take on our bases.  And everybody knows it.  I mean, we could have a discussion right here about what the numbers look like and we know what’s necessary.

And here’s the good news — it turns out we don’t have to do anything radical to solve this problem.  Contrary to what some folks say, we’re not Greece, we’re not Portugal.  It turns out that our problem is we cut taxes without paying for them over the last decade; we ended up instituting new programs like a prescription drug program for seniors that was not paid for; we fought two wars, we didn’t pay for them; we had a bad recession that required a Recovery Act and stimulus spending and helping states — and all that accumulated and there’s interest on top of that.

And to unwind that, what’s required is that we roll back those tax cuts on the wealthiest individuals, that we clean up our tax code so we’re not giving out a bunch of tax breaks to companies that don’t need them and are not creating jobs, we cut programs that we don’t need, and we invest in those things that are going to help us grow.

And every commission that’s been out there has said the same thing and basically taken the same approach, within the margin of error.

So my general view is that if the American people looked at this, they’d say, boy, some of these decisions are tough, but they don’t require us to gut Medicare or Social Security.  They don’t require us to stop helping young people go to college.  They don’t require us to stop helping families who’ve got a disabled child.  They don’t require us to violate our obligations to our veterans.  And they don’t require “job-killing tax cuts.” [sic]  They require us to make some modest adjustments to get our house in order, and we should do it now.

With respect to Senator McConnell’s plan, as I said, I think it is a — it is constructive to say that if Washington operates as usual and can’t get anything done, let’s at least avert Armageddon.  I’m glad that people are serious about the consequences of default.

But we have two problems here.  One is raising the debt ceiling — this is a problem that was manufactured here in Washington, because every single one of the leaders over there have voted for raising the debt ceiling in the past — and has typically been a difficult, but routine process. And we do have a genuine underlying problem that our debt and deficits are too big.  So Senator McConnell’s approach solves the first problem.  It doesn’t solve the second problem.  I’d like to solve that second problem.

Q    But are you looking at this option as a more likely outcome at this point?  Or can you share with us why you have some hope that the talks that have been going on might actually produce an outcome?

THE PRESIDENT:  I always have hope.  Don’t you remember my campaign?  (Laughter.)  Even after being here for two-and-a-half years I continue to have hope.  You know why I have hope?  It’s because of the American people.  When I talk to them and I meet with them, as frustrated as they are about this town, they still reflect good common sense.  And all we have to do is align with that common sense on this problem, it can get solved.

And I’m assuming that at some point, members of Congress are going to listen.  I just want to repeat, every Republican — not — I won’t say every.  A number of Republican former elected officials — they’re not in office now — would say a balanced approach that includes some revenue is the right thing to do.  The majority of Republican voters say that approach is the right thing to do.  The proposal that I was discussing with Speaker Boehner fell squarely in line with what most Republican voters think we should do.  So the question is at what point do folks over there start listening to the people who put them in office?  Now is a good time.

Sam Youngman.

Q    Good morning, Mr. President.  I’d like to go back to something Chuck asked, his first question, about the tone of this debate.  I faintly remember your campaign.  And I’m guessing that while it hasn’t been ugly, as you say, it’s not what you had in mind when you said you wanted to change the tone in Washington.  When you have Senator McConnell making comments that he views these negotiations through the prism of 2012, how much does that poison the well?  And going forward, if — big if — you can get a deal on this, can you get anything done with Congress for the next year and a half?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me say this.  And I’m not trying to poke at you guys.  I generally don’t watch what is said about me on cable.  I generally don’t read what’s said about me, even in The Hill.  And so part of this job is having a thick skin and understanding that a lot of this stuff is not personal.

That’s not going to be an impediment to — whatever Senator McConnell says about me on the floor of the Senate is not going to be an impediment to us getting a deal done.  The question is going to be whether at any given moment we’re willing to set politics aside, at least briefly, in order to get something done.

I don’t expect politicians not to think about politics.  But every so often there are issues that are urgent, that have to be attended to, and require us to do things we don’t like to do that run contrary to our base, that gets some constituency that helped elect us agitated because they’re looking at it from a narrow prism.  We’re supposed to be stepping back and looking at it from the perspective of what’s good for the country.  And if we are able to remind ourselves of that, then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get things done.

Look, we’ve been obsessing over the last couple of weeks about raising the debt ceiling and reducing the debt and deficit.  I’ll tell you what the American people are obsessing about right now is that unemployment is still way too high and too many folks’ homes are still underwater, and prices of things that they need, not just that they want, are going up a lot faster than their paychecks are if they’ve got a job.

And so even after we solve this problem we still got a lot of work to do.  Hans was mentioning we should renew the payroll tax for another year, we should make sure unemployment insurance is there for another year —

Q    Sir, I don’t believe that was my point.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  But you were making the point about whether or not that issue could be wrapped into this deal.  My point is that those are a whole other set of issues that we need to be talking about and working on.  I’ve got an infrastructure bank bill that would start putting construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges.  We should be cooperating on that.

Most of the things that I’ve proposed to help spur on additional job growth are traditionally bipartisan.  I’ve got three trade deals sitting ready to go.  And these are all trade deals that the Republicans told me were their top priorities.  They said this would be one of the best job creators that we could have.  And yet it’s still being held up because some folks don’t want to provide trade adjustment assistance to people who may be displaced as a consequence of trade.  Surely we can come up with a compromise to solve those problems.

So there will be huge differences between now and November 2012 between the parties, and whoever the Republican nominee is, we’re going to have a big, serious debate about what we believe is the right way to guide America forward and to win the future.  And I’m confident that I will win that debate, because I think that we’ve got the better approach.  But in the meantime, surely we can, every once in a while, sit down and actually do something that helps the American people right here and right now.

Q    It’s in the meantime, sir, that I’m curious about.  As you just said, raising the debt ceiling is apparently fairly routine, but it’s brought us to the point of economic Armageddon, as you said.  If you can get past this one, how can you get any agreement with Congress on those big issues you talked about?

THE PRESIDENT:  I am going to keep on working and I’m going to keep on trying.  And what I’m going to do is to hope that, in part, this debate has focused the American people’s attention a little bit more and will subject Congress to scrutiny.  And I think increasingly the American people are going to say to themselves, you know what, if a party or a politician is constantly taking the position “my way or the high way,” constantly being locked into ideologically rigid positions, that we’re going to remember at the polls.

It’s kind of cumulative.  The American people aren’t paying attention to the details of every aspect of this negotiation, but I think what the American people are paying attention to is who seems to be trying to get something done, and who seems to be just posturing and trying to score political points.  And I think it’s going to be in the interests of everybody who wants to continue to serve in this town to make sure that they are on the right side of that impression.

And that’s, by the way, what I said in the meeting two days ago.  I was very blunt.  I said the American people do not want to see a bunch of posturing; they don’t want to hear a bunch of sound bites.  What they want is for us to solve problems, and we all have to remember that.  That’s why we were sent here.

Last question — Scott Horsley.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wonder if you’ve seen any sign this week of daily meetings that Republicans are being more aligned with that American majority, or if we are in the same place today that we were on Monday.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s probably better for you to ask them how they’re thinking.  I do think that — and I’ve said this before — Speaker Boehner, in good faith, was trying to see if it was possible to get a big deal done.  He had some problems in his caucus.  My hope is, is that after some reflection, after we walked through all the numbers this week and we looked at all the options, that there may be some movement, some possibility, some interest to still get something more than the bare minimum done.

But we’re running out of time.  That’s the main concern that I have at this point.  We have enough time to do a big deal.  I’ve got reams of paper and printouts and spreadsheets on my desk, and so we know how we can create a package that solves the deficits and debt for a significant period of time.  But in order to do that, we got to get started now.  And that’s why I’m expecting some answers from all the congressional leaders sometime in the next couple of days.

And I have to say this is tough on the Democratic side, too.  Some of the things that I’ve talked about and said I would be willing to see happen, there are some Democrats who think that’s absolutely unacceptable.  And so that’s where I’d have a selling job, Chuck, is trying to sell some of our party that if you are a progressive, you should be concerned about debt and deficit just as much as if you’re a conservative.   And the reason is because if the only thing we’re talking about over the next year, two years, five years, is debt and deficits, then it’s very hard to start talking about how do we make investments in community colleges so that our kids are trained, how do we actually rebuild $2 trillion worth of crumbling infrastructure.

If you care about making investments in our kids and making investments in our infrastructure and making investments in basic research, then you should want our fiscal house in order, so that every time we propose a new initiative somebody doesn’t just throw up their hands and say, “Ah, more big spending, more government.”

It would be very helpful for us to be able to say to the American people, our fiscal house is in order.  And so now the question is what should we be doing to win the future and make ourselves more competitive and create more jobs, and what aspects of what government is doing are a waste and we should eliminate.  And that’s the kind of debate that I’d like to have.

All right?  Thank you, guys.

11:39 A.M. EDT

Erik Seeman Named Director of University of Buffalo Humanities InstituteI


History Buzz

Source: University of Buffalo News Center, 7-17-11

Historian Erik Seeman has been named director of the UB Humanities Institute.
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Erik R. Seeman, PhD, professor of history at the University at Buffalo and a [ photograph ]noted historian of the Americas, has been named director of the UB College of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Institute, an association that has developed an international reputation for innovative cross-disciplinary research, teaching and community programs in the humanities.

Seeman was appointed by E. Bruce Pitman, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to a three-year term that began July 1.. He will succeed Tim Dean, PhD, professor of English, who has held the position since 2008. Carrie Tirado Bramen, PhD, professor of English, will continue as executive director of the Humanities Institute, a position to which she was re-appointed in 2010.

In making the appointment, Pitman said, “Since its founding in 2005, the Humanities Institute has served as a bridge across disciplines within the university and as a bridge from UB to the larger community.

“It has achieved recognition on campus for fostering and facilitating interdisciplinary scholarship,” he said, “and through the conferences it sponsors and the publications it has helped create, has established a national presence for itself and the faculty members affiliated with it.”

Pitman added, “Previous directors, Professors Ewa Ziarek, Martha Malamud and Tim Dean, developed very successful programs of teaching and outreach and I have every confidence that Drs. Seeman and Bramen will continue this excellent work of enhancing the cultural life of the university and Western New York.”

The institute focuses on interdisciplinary research and education in the fields of history, literature, languages and cultural studies, philosophy and, more broadly, the fine arts, media studies, architecture and other disciplines.

In his new position Seeman will direct a broad range of programs that include research fellowships and awards, lecture series, a seminar series featuring new faculty members, interdisciplinary research workshops, support for publications, a distinguished scholars-in-residence program, the Scholars in the Schools program, the Scholars at Hallwalls program and an annual conference for international scholars that in the past has covered such topics as the meaning of madness and human trafficking.

Seeman said he looks forward to building on the success of the previous directors, but also wants to take the institute in new directions.

“In particular,” he said, “I am eager to begin supporting the research of PhD students who represent the future of the humanities.”…READ MORE

Political Buzz July 15, 2011: Debt Ceiling Showdown: Second Week of White House Debt Talks — Obama Sets Debt Deal Limit T-36


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


President Obama meets with (L-R) House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 11, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Getty)

  • Timeline: Debt debate: President Barack Obama and top lawmakers will meet again Monday in search of a deal on slashing the U.S. budget deficit and raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before the United States defaults.
    Obama wants to strike a deal well before August 2, when the Treasury Department says it will no longer be able to honor its obligations and issue new bonds without breaching the limit that Congress set on how much the United States can borrow.
    Republican and Democratic lawmakers say any increase must include measures to ensure the country’s debt remains at a sustainable level. The debt-reduction debate is a sharp shift for Washington, which less than a year ago was focused on additional deficit spending to lower the unemployment rate.
    Following is a timeline of the debate…. – Reuters, 7-11-11
  • Factbox: What’s on the table in debt talks: President Barack Obama and congressional leaders resume their White House talks on Monday to see if they have the makings of a deal to trim budget deficits and avert a looming default.
    The Treasury Department has warned it will run out of money to cover the country’s bills if Congress does not raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2.
    Although Democrats and Republicans agree on the need for trillions of dollars in budget savings, they remain sharply divided about how to get there.
    Following is a summary of the debate… – Reuters, 7-11-11
  • Obama on debt ceiling: Is he winning over Americans?: An increasing number of Americans are concerned about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling, according to a new poll. President Obama has been blunt about the consequences of default…. – CS Monitor, 7-12-11“We might as well do it now — pull off the Band-Aid; eat our peas.” – President Barack Obama“I know you all love to write the soap opera here.” — Eric Cantor (R-Va.), joking about the Republican-Democrat split.“It’s time for tough love. Don’t let them scare you by telling you that the country’s going to fall apart.” — Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), speaking to a cheering crowd in Iowa over the weekend.“I hope and pray and believe they should not raise the debt ceiling. These historic, dramatic moments where you can draw a line in the sand and force politicians to actually do something bold and courageous are important moments.” – Tim Pawlenty, Former Minnesota governor

    “A cataclysmic game of chicken. Negotiating with a gun to your head. A Thelma & Louise-style full throttle off a cliff.” — John Avlon at the Daily Beast, on the “dire metaphors” for the debate.

    “The debt ceiling is a gut-check time for all Republicans on spending and size of government. … Apparently, Gov. Romney is still checking his gut to figure out where he should stand.” — Alex Conant, spokesman for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

    “You and I have decided to have lunch together today. We both need lunch. We both know we’re going to have lunch. But we don’t agree on where to eat. So you propose Mexican, but I counter with Chinese, and warn that if you refuse, neither of us will get to eat lunch ever again. Deal? … Of course not. But that’s pretty much the GOP’s strategy on the debt-ceiling negotiation.” — Ezra Klein on the partisan bickering

    “It’s a hostage negotiation! It’s a lunch conversation! No, it’s the debt ceiling debate.” — Eric Thompson at the Atlantic, on how to characterize the debt ceiling.

    “We are at each others throats more than is necessary.” — Jeff Immelt, chairman of Obama’s outside panel of economic advisers, calling the White House and Congress to strike a deal on Monday.


“It’s decision time. We need concrete plans to move this forward.” — President Barack Obama

“We’ve looked at all available options, and we have no way to give Congress more time to solve this problem. The eyes of the country are on us, and the eyes of the world are on us, and we need to make sure that we stand together and send a definitive signal that we are going to take the steps necessary to avoid default.” — Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner

  • ‘Decision Time’ on Budget, Obama Tells Leaders: President Obama threw the deadlocked budget negotiations back to Congress on Thursday, telling Republicans and Democrats to try to work out an agreement to avert a government default, and suggesting that more ambitious efforts to cut the deficit had hit a wall.
    After a polite but inconclusive session that covered familiar ground and made no headway, Mr. Obama told the Congressional leaders to confer with their rank-and-file members over the next 24 to 36 hours to “figure out what can get done,” said a Democratic official briefed on the negotiations.
    The president said he might summon the leaders to the White House over the weekend if there was no progress; he has scheduled a news conference for Friday morning to argue his case publicly. On Capitol Hill, leaders of both parties were focused increasingly on a proposal by the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, that could provide a way out of the stalemate on the debt limit…. – NYT, 7-14-11
  • Obama gives leaders ’24 to 36 hours’ to come to debt agreement: President Obama told congressional leaders at their latest debt-limit meeting that they must come to an agreement on the way forward by early Saturday morning or else they will be called back to the White House this weekend, aides from both parties with knowledge of the meeting said Thursday evening.
    At a meeting that lasted 80 minutes, congressional negotiators and the White House finished their review of the work done by a group led by Vice President Biden, said the aides, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting.
    At the end, Obama told the bipartisan leaders that, over the next 24 to 36 hours, he wanted them to indicate a path forward that would be able to pass both chambers.
    No White House meeting is set for Friday. Instead, leaders are expected to go to their rank-and-file members to discuss the negotiations.
    Thursday’s meeting ended at 5:43 p.m. Shortly afterwards, the White House announced that Obama would hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Friday…. – WaPo, 7-14-11
  • Looking for debt deal, Obama outlines cuts: President Obama implored congressional leaders Thursday to reach a deal on raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit by this weekend to reassure jittery world financial markets, and he suggested he could settle for a smaller deficit-reduction package than he originally sought.
    Rather than continue to push for $4 trillion in savings over the next decade, Obama outlined a plan that would achieve roughly $2 trillion, almost entirely from spending reductions. That marks a major concession — one the president is likely to address at a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. ET this morning.
    At the same time, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Harry Reid forged ahead with an even smaller deal of their own, one that represents a second fallback plan. It would allow Obama to raise the debt limit and create a process by which Congress would vote in the future on spending reductions…. – USA Today, 7-14-11
  • As White House talks falter, Senate works on agreement to raise debt limit: President Obama prepared Thursday to bring bipartisan talks over the debt to a close, as Senate leaders worked across party lines to craft an alternative strategy to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit and avert a government default.
    “It’s decision time,” Obama told congressional leaders after meeting at the White House for a fifth straight day. Obama gave Republicans until early Saturday to tell him whether any of three options for trimming the federal budget would win GOP support.
    “We need concrete plans to move this forward,” he said.
    A breakthrough in the White House talks looked unlikely, however, leaving the Senate framework as the chief option for raising the debt limit before Aug. 2, when the Treasury will be unable to pay its bills without additional borrowing authority.
    That deadline loomed ever larger Thursday, as China, the U.S. government’s largest foreign creditor, called on U.S. policymakers to take action to protect the interests of investors. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke warned that failure to raise the debt ceiling would amount to “a self-inflicted wound” that would cause “a very severe financial shock” to the global economy. And Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told lawmakers that they are running out of time…. – WaPo, 7-14-11
  • Obama, lawmakers face fresh doubts on debt deal: President Barack Obama and top Republicans faced growing pressure at home and abroad on Thursday to stop deficit talks from spiraling out of control and sending shockwaves through the global financial system.
    Markets reacted skittishly after the fourth straight day of talks between Obama and congressional leaders hit a new low on Wednesday, while divisions within the Republican party seemed to increase the difficulty of striking a deal to extend the nation’s borrowing authority and avoid a default after August 2.
    The Democratic president clashed with Republican lawmakers during an acrimonious two-hour White House session on Wednesday that produced no progress toward a deal. A leading Republican said Obama walked out of the meeting.
    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with Democratic senators and urged quick action, saying “we are running out of time.”… – Reuters, 7-14-11
  • GOP threatens to bolt on McConnell’s plan: “I would say, ‘No way,’” said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, whose members constitute roughly three-quarters of the House GOP.
    “Everybody I’ve talked to over here says, ‘No way,’” said Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, a member of the vote-counting whip team.
    But earlier in the day, Boehner declined to pronounce the death of McConnell’s plan, which has gained some traction in the Senate and is being held in reserve as a last-resort option to avoid an economic disaster. Rather than getting a vote as is, the plan will more likely move forward in another form or alongside appetizing additives intended to help Republicans in both chambers digest the debt hike and a cession of power to the president.
    “Mitch described his proposal as a last-ditch effort in case we’re unable to do anything else,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. “And what may look like something less than optimal today, if we are unable to reach an agreement, might look pretty good a couple of weeks from now. I think it’s worth keeping on the table. There are a lot of options that people have floated. And frankly, I think it’s an option that may be worthy at some point.” Boehner said he has “no idea” whether McConnell’s plan will pass his chamber. Several GOP lawmakers said privately that it stands no chance…. – Politico, 7-14-11
  • With no debt deal, Obama would face tough choices Aug. 3 about what bills to pay: What happens if President Obama and Congress don’t strike a debt deal? On Aug. 3, the nation would find out, with Obama forced to make a set of extraordinarily difficult choices about what to pay or not pay. By then, the government’s savings account would be nearly empty and the president would be relying on daily tax revenue to pay the nation’s bills.
    There wouldn’t be enough — in fact, there would be a $134 billion shortfall in August alone.
    As Obama decided what to pay, he would choose among Social Security checks, salaries for members of the military and veterans, unemployment benefits, student loans, and many other government programs, according to administration officials and an independent analysis by a former senior Treasury Department official in the George H.W. Bush administration.
    To protect the nation’s creditworthiness, Obama would have to balance those priorities with the imperative of making payments to investors in U.S. government bonds — ranging from domestic pension funds to the Chinese government…. – WaPo, 7-13-11


“I’ve reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this… Enough is enough. … I’ll see you all tomorrow.” — President Barack Obama

Cantor said the president became “agitated” and warned the Virginia Republican not to “call my bluff” when Cantor said he would consider a short-term debt-limit hike. The meeting “ended with the president abruptly walking out of the meeting,” Cantor told reporters in the Capitol. “I know why he lost his temper. He’s frustrated. We’re all frustrated.”

  • Obama ends talks brusquely: President Barack Obama has ended a nearly two hour debt-limit negotiation brusquely, declaring: “Enough is enough” as he rejected Republican demands that he accept a short-term extension of the government’s borrowing authority.
    Democratic officials and Republican aides familiar with the negotiations say the meeting ended after White House officials had identified more than $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years to reduce the deficit. Pressed by House Republican leader Eric Cantor to accept only months-long debt ceiling increase, Democratic officials say Obama announced: “Enough is enough. We have to be willing to compromise. It shouldn’t be about positioning, and politics and I’ll see you all tomorrow.”… – AP, 7-13-11
  • Tempers flare as debt talks get tense at White House:

    Obama vows to veto any short-term extension, even at risk to his presidency, sources say Cantor, Boehner seek a short-term debt ceiling hike opposed by Obama Moody’s puts U.S. bond rating under review The United States must raise its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2 or risk a default

    A fifth session of talks in five days is set for Thursday to head off a possible government default. Wednesday’s session ended on a tense note with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and President Barack Obama squaring off over the Republican’s call for a short-term extension of the federal debt ceiling.
    At one point, Obama said the political wrangling confirmed what the public considers to be the worst of Washington, according to Democratic sources familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of not being identified.
    Multiple sources, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Obama told the gathering that “this could bring my presidency down,” referring to his pledge to veto any short-term extension of the debt ceiling. Sources say he vowed, “I will not yield on this.”
    Obama to Cantor: Don’t call my bluff
    The exchange concluded almost two hours of talks that failed to achieve a breakthrough….. – CNN, 7-14-11

  • President Obama abruptly walks out of debt ceiling talks: President Barack Obama abruptly walked out of a stormy debt-limit meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday, a dramatic setback to the already shaky negotiations.
    “He shoved back and said ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’ and walked out,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters in the Capitol after the meeting.
    On a day when the Moody’s rating agency warned that American debt could be downgraded, the White House talks blew up amid a new round of sniping between Obama and Cantor, who are fast becoming bitter enemies.
    When Cantor said the two sides were too far apart to get a deal that could pass the House by the Treasury Department’s Aug. 2 deadline — and that he would consider moving a short-term debt-limit increase alongside smaller spending cuts — Obama began to lecture him.
    “Eric, don’t call my bluff,” the president said, warning Cantor that he would take his case “to the American people.” He told Cantor that no other president — not Ronald Reagan, the president said — would sit through such negotiations.
    Democratic sources dispute Cantor’s version of Obama’s walk out, but all sides agree that the two had a blow up. The sources described Obama as “impassioned” but said he didn’t exactly storm out of the room.
    “Cantor’s account of tonight’s meeting is completely overblown. For someone who knows how to walk out of a meeting, you’d think he’d know it when he saw it,” a Democratic aide said. “Cantor rudely interrupted the president three times to advocate for short-term debt ceiling increases while the president was wrapping the meeting. This is just more juvenile behavior from him and Boehner needs to rein him in, and let the grown-ups get to work.”
    On exiting the room, Obama said that “this confirms the totality of what the American people already believe” about Washington, according to a Democratic official familiar with the negotiations, and that officials are “too focused on positioning and political posturing” to make difficult choices.
    Cantor insists he never interrupted the president, and was “deferential,” seeking permission to speak…. – Politico, 7-13-11
  • ‘Enough is enough,’ Obama says, calling for deal: Amid new warnings and fresh signs of strain, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are entering a perilous debt-limit endgame. The president, declaring “enough is enough,” is demanding that budget negotiators find common ground by week’s end even as the Senate’s top Republican gained followers for his own last-ditch scheme to avoid a government default.
    The continuing impasse was unsettling Wall Street, which up to now had performed as if an increase in the debt ceiling was not in doubt. And the looming Aug. 2 cutoff for action was creating new tensions between the president and Republican leaders.
    Moody’s Investors Service said Wednesday it will review the government’s credit rating, noting there is a small but rising risk that the government will default on its debt. If Moody’s were to lower the ratings, the consequences would ripple through the economy, pushing up rates for mortgages, car loans and other debts. A Chinese rating agency, Dagong Global Credit Rating Co., also warned of a possible downgrade.
    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, addressing lawmakers, warned Wednesday that not increasing the nation’s debt ceiling and allowing the nation default on its debt would send “shock waves through the entire financial system.”
    And in the cauldron of the White House Cabinet Room, Obama and top lawmakers bargained for nearly two hours Wednesday on spending cuts. Obama curtly ended the session when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., urged Obama to accept a short, monthslong increase in debt instead of one that would last through next year’s presidential election.
    “Enough is enough. … I’ll see you all tomorrow,” Obama said, rising from the negotiating table and leaving the room, according to several officials familiar with the session…. – AP, 7-14-11
  • Moody’s moves one step closer to downgrading U.S. debt: Moody’s Investors Service said Wednesday it has put the U.S. government’s top-notch credit rating on review for a possible downgrade because of the risk that Washington will not raise the federal debt ceiling in time to avoid a default.
    The firm added that even a brief failure of the government to pay its bills would mean that the United States’s Aaa rating “would likely no longer be appropriate.”
    The announcement comes after Standard & Poor’s, another of the major credit rating agencies, has said that it would dramatically downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating if payments were missed.
    The U.S. has long been able to borrow money cheaply because global investors believe the government can be counted on to repay its debts. If credit rating agencies downgrade the U.S. and investors lose their faith in the creditworthiness of the government, the cost of borrowing money — in other words, the interest rate — could rise…. – WaPo, 7-13-11
  • Eric Cantor walks tightrope with GOP: As he has surged to the forefront of debt-limit negotiations and faced round-the-clock scrutiny on cable and radio talk shows, a fundamental question about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s high-stakes political maneuvering is being discussed in the halls of power.
    Is he building street cred with House Republicans or overplaying his hand? The answer may be both. Cantor’s allies note that he’s been put in the spotlight by assignment — from Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama — not by choice. And they say he has gained political capital within the GOP conference.
    Cantor has a lot riding on the outcome of the debt-limit negotiations. He’ll share in the public blame if they fall apart and the economy tanks, and he’ll face recriminations from his conservative base in the House if he cuts too soft a deal with the president.
    Still, there’s little question that Republicans, led by Cantor’s steadfast loyalty to their bottom line, have forced the debt-limit debate to be framed in terms of trillions in cuts instead of the clean debt increase Obama originally wanted.
    With only 22 percent of respondents supporting a vote in favor of the debt increase according to a Gallup Poll, Republicans believe they’re on firm footing with voters as they push for historically deep spending cuts…. – Politico, 7-13-11
  • Debt stalemate – who budges first?Politico Arena, 7-13-11


“After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is probably unattainable.” — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor

  • McConnell’s last ditch debt ceiling plan: What’s in it for Republicans?: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell proposes a ‘last choice option’ that would allow President Obama to raise the national debt ceiling without GOP support.
    In a surprise move, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday proposed a “last choice option” to avoid default on the national debt that would require the support of just over a third of the House and Senate to raise the national debt ceiling.
    The McConnell proposal, which requires special legislation to be adopted, gives the president expedited procedures to increase the debt limit by as much as $2.4 trillion that require only submission of a plan to reduce spending by a greater amount. There is no requirement that Congress actually pass those spending cuts.
    But even if the cuts are never passed, the proposal has two political advantages for Republicans: It forces President Obama to lay out his proposed spending cuts in writing, a longtime GOP demand. And it absolves Republicans of responsibility for sending the nation into its first-ever default, as early as Aug. 2…. – CS Monitor, 7-12-11
  • A Pathway Out of the Debt Crisis: Political gain, not economic sense or sound policy, has always been at the core of Republican strategy on the debt-ceiling talks — a cynical ploy to appear serious about cutting spending while actually holding hostage the nation’s strong credit rating. Now that the real risks to their strategy are becoming apparent, including the possibility of cutting off Social Security checks, the more experienced members of the party are beginning to rethink their plans.
    On Tuesday, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, proposed a convoluted fallback solution that would at least defuse the crisis his party created a few weeks ago by threatening to force the country into default on its national debts. The plan is no less cynical than the original threat, but if the House goes along, it may allow Washington, the credit markets and the American people to breathe a little easier.
    Mr. McConnell’s plan would allow President Obama to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion in three increments through the end of 2012. Congress could vote to disapprove each increment, but the president could veto its resolutions of disapproval, and the debt ceiling would then rise.
    The president would have to identify possible spending cuts equal to the debt ceiling increases, but he would get to choose the cuts, and would not have to make them before the two chambers vote. Congress would be unable to force him to make the cuts it wants, except through the regular appropriations process.
    The proposal is clearly meant to shift all the blame for raising the debt ceiling onto the president, and away from Republicans. Every Republican in Congress could proudly vote against the debt increases, but the ceiling would still go up, because there are not enough Republicans to override a veto. It’s a distinction that makes sense only in the current Washington frame of mind, but it’s a trade-off worth making to avoid either a default or radical cuts to discretionary spending and entitlement programs…. – NYT, 7-13-11
  • McConnell, Boehner blast Obama over debt talks: Just hours before another White House meeting, the top two Republicans in Congress blasted President Obama today for a debt reduction proposal they say is more specific about taxes than actual budget cuts.
    “In my view the president has presented us with three choices,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., referring to efforts to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. “Smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default.” “Republicans choose none of the above,” McConnell said. “I had hoped to do good; but I refuse to do harm.”
    Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, demanded more specifics from Obama, saying, “Where’s the president’s plan? When’s he going to lay his cards on the table?” “This debt limit increase is his problem,” Boehner said. “I think it’s time for him to lead by putting his plan on the table, something that the Congress can pass.”
    Republican and Democratic leaders are scheduled to meet with Obama at 3:45 p.m., a third straight day of negotiating…. – USA Today, 7-12-11


  • Obama says he cannot guarantee Social Security checks will go out on August 3: President Obama on Tuesday said he cannot guarantee that retirees will receive their Social Security checks August 3 if Democrats and Republicans in Washington do not reach an agreement on reducing the deficit in the coming weeks.
    “I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, according to excerpts released by CBS News.
    The Obama administration and many economists have warned of economic catastrophe if the United States does not raise the amount it is legally allowed to borrow by August 2…. – CBS News, 7-12-11
  • Obama, lawmakers regroup to seek U.S. debt deal: President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, struggling to break an impasse over taxes and spending cuts, will regroup on Tuesday to seek common ground for a deal to avoid a looming U.S. debt default.
    Obama and top lawmakers from both political parties will hold their third meeting in as many days at the White House at 3:45 p.m. (1945 GMT) to hammer out elements of legislation to reduce the U.S. deficit and raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2.
    The two sides remain far apart on the role of revenues in a deficit-fighting plan. The White House wants to end Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and close other corporate tax loopholes, boosting federal coffers even as massive government spending cuts are made…. – Reuters, 7-12-11
  • Obama urges Republicans to follow Reagan example: President Barack Obama urged Republicans to draw inspiration from the hero of fiscal conservatives, Ronald Reagan, who had agreed to revenue increases to cut the US deficit.
    “Ronald Reagan repeatedly took steps that included revenue, in order for him to accomplish some of these larger goals,” Obama told CBS in an interview.
    “And the question is if Ronald Reagan could compromise — why wouldn’t folks who idolize Ronald Reagan be willing to engage in those same kinds of compromises.”… – AFP, 7-13-11
  • The tea party, the debt ceiling and John Boehner’s conundrum: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 11, 2011, as the debt talks continued. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)When Republicans retook the House in the 2010 midterm elections, there were a handful of smart party strategists who cautioned that managing the majority might be more trouble than anyone thought, due to the scores of tea party-aligned members coming into Congress.
    Six months into the 112th Congress and House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) is learning that lesson in spades, as the debt ceiling debate rages on with no signs of compromise.
    New polling from the Washington Post and Pew Research Center paints Boehner’s challenge in corralling the tea party element of the Republican conference in stark relief.
    The data suggests that those who identify as Republicans who are supportive of the tea party not only view themselves as far more educated than the average person on the current debt debate, but are also far more worried about the impact if the debt limit is increased.
    More than eight in 10 tea party supporters (81 percent) said they understand “what would happen if the government does not raise the federal debt limit” — far more than the 55 percent of all respondents who said the same thing.
    Three quarters of tea party supporters said that they were more concerned that raising the debt ceiling would “lead to higher government spending and make the national debt bigger,” while just 19 percent said they were more worried that “not raising the debt limit would force the government into default and hurt the nation’s economy.”
    That stands in stark contrast to all Americans in the poll, 47 percent of whom said raising the debt limit was a bigger concern while 42 percent said not raising it was the bigger worry…. – WaPo, 7-12-11
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