By Dan Robinson
President Barack Obama has reiterated his insistence on achieving a “balanced” agreement that would trim trillions of dollars from government deficit spending over the next decade, while preserving investments he sees as crucial to job creation and economic growth.
With just a few weeks before an August 2 Treasury Department deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion borrowing limit – and effectively less time than that to allow Congress to draft legislation – the pressure on the president and congressional leaders increases daily.
After chiding Republicans, and Congress in general, last week over inaction on the debt and deficit issues, Mr. Obama spent the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland where he and advisers continued contacts with lawmakers.
Mr. Obama refused a call by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to go to Capitol Hill for talks and the White House remained silent on another offer from McConnell to meet this week.
In the White House briefing room, the president took no questions, but said he has invited Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to the White House on Thursday for an effort to “drive towards a final agreement.”
“It is my hope that everybody is going to leave their ultimatums at the door, that we will all leave our political rhetoric at the door, and that we are going to do what is best for our economy and what is best for our people,” said President Obama. ”
Senator McConnell and other Republicans have said there is no chance Congress will approve new tax increases, Republican’s description of tax breaks and loopholes for wealthier Americans that the White House seeks to end.
McConnell spoke on the floor of the Senate just a few hours before President Obama’s statement at the White House, appearing to take a hard line on any debt ceiling increase without significant spending cuts.
“I think the best way to solve this impasse is for the president to hear what needs to be done and how we can do it, hear what can actually pass here in Congress,” said Senator McConnell.
McConnell and other Republicans also held a news conference, at exactly the same time as the president was speaking at the White House, to drive home their points about spending and their view on the connection between deficits and the debt issue.
President Obama again pointed to progress made in more than two months of negotiations that were first led by Vice President Joe Biden. However, he added there are still “some real differences” and said all involved must be prepared to get out of their “comfort zones.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was pressed by reporters on whether Mr. Obama would support a short-term deal on deficit reduction and raising the federal borrowing limit. He said the president said “quite clearly” he does not believe that is the right course.
“He believes that we have now a unique opportunity, the result of a confluence of events [and] decisions, that gives us a chance to do something big, that can set us on a solid footing for the 21st century as we build our economy, get our fiscal house in order,” said Carney.
Carney said the eight lawmakers invited to the White House meeting on Thursday have accepted the invitation, and he said the White House anticipates intense negotiations ahead as the deadline for raising the debt ceiling approaches.