President Obama Briefs the Press on Progress in Deficit Talks

President Obama Briefs the Press on Progress in Deficit Talks


The President:
Hello, everybody. I wanted to give folks a quick
update on the progress that we’re making on the debt
ceiling discussions. I was in contact with all the
leadership over the course of the weekend and continued
to urge both Democrats and Republicans to come together
around an approach that not only lifts the debt ceiling but also
solves the underlying challenges that we face when it comes
to debt and deficits. Some progress was made in
some of the discussions, some narrowing of the issues. Speaker Boehner and the
Republican House caucus felt it necessary to put forward the
plan that they’re going to be voting on today. I think everyone’s
estimation is, is that that is not an approach
that could pass both chambers, it’s not an approach
that I would sign and it’s not balanced. But I understand the need for
them to test that proposition. The problem we have now is we’re
in the 11th hour and we don’t have a lot more time left. The good news is that
today a group of senators, the Gang of Six, Democrats and
Republicans — I guess now Gang of Seven, because one additional
Republican senator added on — put forward a proposal that
is broadly consistent with the approach that I’ve urged. What it says is we’ve got
to be serious about reducing discretionary spending both in
domestic spending and defense; we’ve got to be serious about
tackling health care spending and entitlements
in a serious way; and we’ve got to have some
additional revenue so that we have an approach in which
there is shared sacrifice and everybody is giving
up something. And so, for us to see Democratic
senators acknowledge that we’ve got to deal with our long-term
debt problems that arise out of our various
entitlement programs, and for Republican senators to
acknowledge that revenues will have to be part of a balanced
package that makes sure that nobody is disproportionately
hurt from us making progress on the debt and deficits I think
is a very significant step. And as I said, the framework
that they put forward is broadly consistent with what we’ve been
working on here in the White House and with the presentations
that I’ve made to the leadership when they’ve come over here. So here’s where we stand. We have a Democratic President
and administration that is prepared to sign a tough package
that includes both spending cuts, modifications
to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare that would
strengthen those systems and allow them to move
forward, and would include a revenue component. We now have a bipartisan group
of senators who agree with that balanced approach. And we’ve got the American
people who agree with that balanced approach. My hope, and what I will
be urging Speaker Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, as well as Leader
Reid and Mitch McConnell, is that they, tomorrow, are
prepared to start talking turkey and actually getting down to the
hard business of crafting a plan that can move this forward in
time for the August 2nd deadline that we’ve set forward. Just a couple of other
points I will make. Some of you may ask, what does
it mean for the plan that Senator McConnell and Senator
Reid had been working on? Our attitude is, is that that
continues to be a necessary approach to put forward. In the event that we don’t
get an agreement, at minimum, we’ve got to raise
the debt ceiling. So that’s the bare minimum
that has to be achieved, but we continue to believe
that we can achieve more. And so I want to congratulate
the Gang of Six for coming up with a plan that I
think is balanced. We just received it, so
we haven’t reviewed all the details of it. It would not match perfectly
with some of the approaches that we’ve taken, but I think that
we’re in the same playing field. And my hope is, is that we can
start gathering everybody over the next couple of days to
choose a clear direction and to get this issue resolved. So far, at least, the markets
have shown confidence that leadership here in Washington
are not going to send the economy over a cliff. But if we continue to go through
a lot of political posturing, if both sides
continue to be dug in, if we don’t have a basic spirit
of cooperation that allows us to rise above immediate
election-year politics and actually solve problems,
then I think markets here, the American people, and the
international community are going to start reacting
adversely fairly quickly. So I think it’s very important
for in these next couple of days to understand we don’t have any
more time to engage in symbolic gestures; we don’t have
any more time to posture. It’s time to get down to
the business of actually solving this problem. And I think we now are seeing
the potential for a bipartisan consensus around
what that would take. It will be hard. It will be tough. There are still going to be a
lot of difficult negotiations that have to take place in
order for us to actually get something done. And as I said, we have to have
that failsafe that Senator McConnell and Senator
Reid are working on. But the hope is, is
that everybody seizes this opportunity. All right? Okay, guys, I’m going to let
Jay answer questions today. I think I’ve been
pretty good to you guys. (laughter) But after the votes
today in the House, I’ll call up Speaker Boehner and
the other leadership and we’ll arrange for times where
we bring folks back here, and hopefully we’ll be able
to report on some additional progress over the next few days. All right? Thank you very much, guys. The Press:
When will you announce whether
you will be supporting the Gang of Six plan? Would that be in the next day? The President:
Well, as I said, I think what
you’re going to be seeing is an evaluation of that plan
versus the things that we’ve been looking at. I think what you’re going to see
is some significant overlap. But obviously just because we
might agree in principle with a range of issues with six
senators or seven senators, that doesn’t get us out of
the House of Representatives; that doesn’t get us
out of the Senate. There’s going to have to be a
broader agreement on the part of all the leadership that we’re
going to get this done in a serious way, and we’ve got
a tight deadline to do it. All right? Thanks, guys.

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