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June 29th, 2011
07:00 PM ET

Obama pushes GOP on taxes in debt ceiling talks

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama called on lawmakers Wednesday to overcome the "selfish" norms of politics and "do their job" in order to strike a deal on raising the federal government's current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by the start of August.

People shouldn't get "spooked," but "the yellow light (is) flashing," he warned. "This is urgent."

Top economic analysts have warned of potentially catastrophic repercussions if the ceiling is not raised by August 2, including skyrocketing interest rates and a plummeting U.S. dollar.

The president blasted congressional Republicans for refusing to consider raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans as part of any deal. Congress needs to be willing to "take on their sacred cows and do tough things" while moving away from "maximalist positions," he said.

He said Congress should cancel upcoming summer vacations if a deal isn't struck by the end of the week.

"I want everybody to understand that this is a jobs issue. This is not an abstraction," he said. "If the United States government, for the first time, cannot pay its bills - if it defaults - then the consequences for the U.S. economy will be significant and unpredictable. And that is not a good thing."

Obama made his remarks during a wide-ranging news conference covering the state of the economy, the wars in Afghanistan and Libya, and hot-button social issues such as same-sex marriage. It came at a time of rising questions over Obama's ability to maintain control of the political narrative and boost public confidence in his stewardship in the run-up to next year's presidential election.

GOP leaders have shown no signs of yielding in their opposition to higher taxes as part of any grand bargain with the White House. Recent bipartisan talks led by Vice President Joe Biden collapsed over the tax disagreement.

"The president is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the (Republican-controlled) House," Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after Obama's news conference.

"A debt-limit increase can only pass the House if it includes spending cuts larger than the debt limit increase; includes reforms to hold down spending in the future; and is free from tax hikes," Boehner added. "The longer the president denies these realities, the more difficult he makes this process."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, insisted earlier in the day that Republicans will "refuse to let the taxpayers take the hit when it comes to reducing the debt."

The debate is "about holding Washington accountable for a change," McConnell said. "It's about refusing to subsidize the Democrats' irresponsible spending habits another day."

For his part, the president ripped Republicans for protecting "millionaires and billionaires," oil companies, hedge fund managers, and owners of corporate jets.

The wealthy, he said, can afford to pay higher taxes.

"You can still ride on your corporate jet. You're just going to pay a little more," Obama said.

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Roy J. Bresh

    I think that all congress men and women should take a one third cut in there pay checks.That would add up to some real
    money savings

    June 30, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  2. Roy J. Bresh

    If we are not going to close tax holes then I think congress should cut there staff and congresional pay. This would be
    real cut in spending

    June 30, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  3. Jesse Dale

    His comments are totally warranted. He's been nothing short of a pushover when it's came down to Republican policies and I believe he's trying to turn that public perception around. If he plans on running a tough re-election campaign for 2012, he must start pushing back. It is sad that bi-partisanship is virtually nonexistent in the political world we live in today and jabs like this are even close to being acceptable as effective strategies.

    June 29, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  4. Name*lynette

    This is a sad time for the GOP. I hope that each of them individually exam their responsibility to the American people. It appears that they are choosing the balancing the of the budget to flex their muscles. I hope that their voters remembe them next voting year.

    June 29, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  5. Maria

    Where was Obama when the Democrats held both houses and didn't even come up with a budget; let alone vote on a budget! Why wasn't he calling for them to do their job then? Or is he also blaming that on President Bush and the Republican party!
    Here's an idea; stop spending!!!!!!!!!

    I also want to know where have all the anti war supporters gone. Obama has involved us in a "non war" in libya that was only to take a couple of weeks, in actuality it's going on months and we are now spending billions we don't have on a non war! Where are all the peace loving democrats now! Are sit-ins and moral outrage reserved only for union rallies in the age of Obama ? Is this part of the "change" !

    June 29, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  6. Ellen Drummond

    Are the American people really ready to give up their voting rights, the right of a woman to make a choice, and any ability of the public to have a say in who they want for Governor, Senator, House of Representative? Are we really ready to let big money, special interest billionaires & big corporations to have the power to make the law & decide how we live and who represents us? Is this what the Repiblician's want to give us? I truly hope not!

    June 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  7. joseelr

    When will he start to act....do something! Does he not realize the consequences this will have not only on the us but on the world.... stop campaigning and stay in your office and do some work!

    June 29, 2011 at 10:20 pm |