Obama calls for 'balanced approach' to reach debt deal

A feisty President Obama on Wednesday chided Congress to raise the nation's debt ceiling to avoid default.

Obama urged lawmakers from both parties to adopt a "balanced approach" to spending cuts and tax hikes in order to reach a debt-limit deal. 

Speaking at a news conference, Obama targeted Republicans in Congress to be receptive to "tackl[ing] spending in the tax code," such as tax credits and loopholes for big businesses. Republican leaders have balked at such a proposal, saying they won't pass a plan that raises revenue.

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Before the government asks for cuts to entitlement programs or education, Obama said, "I think it's only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that's doing so well to give up that tax break ... I don't think that's real radical."

Obama's remarks are some of his most forceful yet during the debt debate as he's looking to send a message to lawmakers to quickly adopt a deal.

The president recently began directly negotiating with Senate leaders with the hopes of hammering out a deal before the U.S. hits its legal borrowing limit in August.

Obama rejected House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) assertion that the Treasury's Aug. 2 deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling is artificial, calling it a "hard deadline."

He also chastised Congress for having a light work schedule, urging them to pick up the pace to reach a deal.

"If by the end of this week we have not seen substantial progress, members of Congress are going to have to start canceling things and stay here until we get it done," he said. "They're in one week, they're out the next."

The president said that lawmakers in both parties have agreed to $1 trillion in spending cuts already, but that more needs to be done to reach a deficit-reduction goal of $4 trillion.

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"I think we can actually bridge our differences. I think there's a conceptual framework," Obama said, cautioning that "we need to look at the whole budget," not just cuts to discretionary spending. He said that defense spending should be on the table for cuts as well.

Obama also said that Democrats would have to accept "painful spending cuts" to programs they favor, underscoring his point that both sides will need to compromise to reach a deal.

"Nobody wants to see the U.S. default," Obama said. "We have to do it soon."


—Michael O'Brien contributed.

This post was updated at 12:47 p.m.

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