Obama Tells Democrats He Wants a ‘Big Deal’ to Trim Deficit

President Barack Obama said he wants to reach a “big deal” on the budget that will cut the nation’s deficit without slashing spending on education and research that is needed to ensure future growth.

Obama said negotiations with congressional Republicans over avoiding the $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board spending reductions set to begin March 1 shouldn’t push aside the effort for a broader plan to cut government debt.

“I am prepared, eager and anxious to do a big deal, a big package that ends this governance by crisis,” Obama said at the annual House Democratic retreat at Lansdowne Resort in Virginia, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of Washington.

Earlier this week, Obama called on Congress to postpone the automatic cuts and for now work on a short-term package that would combine increased revenue as well as trimming federal outlays. Obama has said he wants to curb tax breaks for top earners and change the treatment of profits in buyout deals, known as carried interest.

The U.S. budget deficit exceeded $1 trillion in each of Obama’s first four years in office. While that must be reduced, he said, “it shouldn’t be just on the backs of seniors, it should not just be on the backs of young people who are trying to get a college education, it should not just be on the backs of parents who are trying to get their kids a better start in life.”

Obama said he’s willing to work on “additional reforms” to make health care programs more efficient and cut unneeded programs.

Republican Stance

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said yesterday he will oppose any delay of the so-called sequester, unless Congress replaces them with other “cuts and reforms.”

Boehner said he is “more than willing” to work with Senate Democrats and Obama on a plan, while reiterating his opposition to tax-revenue increases in such a proposal.

“At some point, Washington has to deal with its spending problem,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said at a Washington news conference yesterday. “I’ve watched them kick this can down the road for 22 years that I’ve been here. I’ve had enough of it. It’s time to act.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has told fellow Democratic leaders in his chamber that he would like to have a plan to delay the spending cuts ready in the next week, according to a Senate Democratic aide who sought anonymity to discuss private talks.

Rallying Democrats

Obama’s appearance was his second in two days with congressional Democrats as he tries to rally them behind his second term agenda, which also includes passing a rewrite of U.S. immigration law and new restrictions on the availability of firearms. Both are issues that have been stalled by opposition in the past.

“It won’t be smooth; it won’t be simple,” Obama told the House members today in Virginia. “There will be times when you guys are mad at me.”

Obama spoke yesterday to Senate Democrats at their retreat in Annapolis, Maryland.

The president also is looking ahead to the 2014 elections in which Democrats will seek to hold or expand their Senate majority and cut into the Republican majority in the House. He is planning to attend 14 fundraisers on behalf of Democratic candidates for Congress this year, White House press secretary Jay Carney said today.