Obama Says Debt Talks Are ‘Rare’ Chance for Bipartisan Agreement

Obama Summons
President Barack Obama takes part in a meeting with congressional leaders including House Speaker John Boehner, left, R-OH, on July 7, 2011, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama said wrangling between Republican and Democratic lawmakers over a deficit-reduction deal provides a chance for a bipartisan approach to the nation’s biggest economic problems.

“We have an extraordinary -- and extraordinarily rare -- opportunity to move forward in a way that makes sure our government lives within its means, that puts our economy on a sounder footing for the future, and that still invests in the things we need to prosper in the years to come,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

The president has invited congressional leaders --including House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican; House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat; and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky -- to a White House meeting tomorrow.

During that session he will try to break a partisan impasse over whether to include cuts in entitlement programs and tax increases in a deficit-slashing deal to pave the way for a vote in Congress to increase the government’s $14.3 trillion debt limit.

The Treasury Department has said that the ceiling must be raised before Aug. 2 to avoid a default on the nation’s financial obligations.

In remarks broadcast today, the president said that during a July 6 town hall hosted by Twitter Inc., he fielded several questions asking when Republicans and Democrats will “come together on behalf of the people who elected them.” That question, he said, “goes to the heart of the debate” over the debt talks.

Some Agreement

“The good news is, we agree on some big things,” he said. “We agree that we simply cannot afford to default on our national obligations for the first time in our history; that we need to uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”

Obama said he believes in a “balanced approach” -- reviewing spending on domestic and defense programs, closing tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest taxpayers, and addressing entitlement programs.

The Labor Department reported yesterday that the unemployment rate in June unexpectedly climbed to 9.2 percent, the highest this year. Employers added 18,000 jobs, the weakest growth since September 2010. Payroll growth for May also was revised downward, to 25,000.

Obama said this “fragile” recovery makes a strong case for “getting our fiscal house in order” so that Congress can focus on ways to create jobs. He urged Congress to expand funding for infrastructure projects and overhaul the patent system to pave the way for job growth.

‘Greater Confidence’

Finding a bipartisan solution to deficit reduction and raising the debt ceiling will help build “greater confidence” in businesses, he said.

The president said he is “hopeful that we will rise to the moment, and seize this opportunity, on behalf of all Americans, and the future we hold in common.”

In the Republicans’ weekly address, U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said that the president’s effort to create jobs has failed.

“The Obama administration promised its ‘stimulus’ would keep unemployment below 8 percent,” said Rodgers, the vice-chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. “Two and a half years later, the unemployment rate is more than 9 percent and still rising.”

Republican Jobs Plan

She said uncertainty about the debt limit, energy prices and “burdensome mandates coming down from Washington” are harming the economy. A Republican blueprint to boost jobs, which includes legislation that would expand domestic energy production and a budget plan, should be taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Rodgers said.

“The Democrats who run Washington don’t have a jobs plan; they have a spending agenda,” she said.

Republicans’ insistence that there be no increase in the debt ceiling without “serious spending cuts and reforms” is a signal of their concern for the state of the nation’s future fiscal health, she said.

“To be truly serious, these cuts should exceed the amount by which President Obama wants the debt limit increased,” said Rodgers. “And there can be no job-crushing tax hikes on families and small businesses.”

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