Obama says he's 'bent over backwards' to get deal with GOP

Obama says he's 'bent over backwards' to get deal with GOP

President Obama insisted Monday he has “bent over backwards” to negotiate a debt deal with Republicans, who he accused of not being willing to budge in the talks.

In a late morning press conference intended to raise pressure on Republicans, Obama suggested a deal to raise the $14.3 trillion deficit would be impossible if the GOP stands firm on not raising any taxes as part of a deficit-reduction package.

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“I do not see a path to a deal if they do not budge. Period,” Obama said from the White House bully pulpit.

Less than two hours after Obama's press conference had concluded, the top two Republicans in the House held press conferences to argue it was Obama who was being inflexible. 

House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorSpecial interests hide behind vets on Independence Day What to watch for in Comey’s testimony Trump nominates two new DOD officials MORE (R-Va.) told reporters no taxes should be raised given the sour economy, while Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner on Trump tweets: He gets 'into a pissing match with a skunk' every day Boehner predicts GOP will 'never' repeal, replace ObamaCare Sudan sanctions spur intense lobbying MORE (R-Ohio) said the president's insistence on tax increases was preventing a deal. "It takes two to tango," BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner on Trump tweets: He gets 'into a pissing match with a skunk' every day Boehner predicts GOP will 'never' repeal, replace ObamaCare Sudan sanctions spur intense lobbying MORE said. 

“We don’t believe that we ought to be raising taxes right now on people in this recession and in this economy, and they do,” Cantor said. “That is just an irreconcilable difference, and if the president wants the debt ceiling — we’re not going to go along with that if they want to raise taxes, and it just is what it is.”

Obama said he and other wealthier taxpayers should be asked to contribute to a package reducing the deficit to ensure pain does not fall only on the middle class and poor. He also cast himself as willing to move on reforms to Social Security and Medicare, but said Republicans would not shift on taxes. 

“I do not want, and I will not accept, a deal in which I am asked to do nothing — in fact, I'm able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don't need — while a parent out there who's struggling to figure out how to send their kid to college suddenly finds that they've got a couple thousand dollars less in grants or student loans,” Obama said.

At his press conference, which began 30 minutes before a 2 p.m. White House meeting between Obama and congressional leaders on the debt talks, Boehner said the president was not willing to move enough on Social Security and Medicare, and was also being inflexible on taxes. 

“I understand that this is going to take sacrifice, and is going to take political capital on both sides," Boehner said. "I’m certainly willing to take my fair share of it, but if we’re going to take political capital, then let’s stand up and do the big thing, the right thing for the country."


The Monday talks follow a Sunday evening meeting that broke off with the sides still split over the scope and content of a deficit-reduction package that would go along with legislation raising the nation’s borrowing limit.

Republicans have rejected the $4 trillion deficit-reduction package being pushed by Obama, saying it would lead to tax hikes. In his second press conference in a week, Obama continued to challenge Republicans to agree to the biggest deal possible.

The president said he is willing to “take on significant heat” from Democrats who are furious that Obama has put entitlement programs on the negotiating table, and he challenged Republicans to join him in pushing for the $4 trillion package.

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That deal would include cuts to domestic and defense spending, changes to the tax code and reforms to Medicare and Social Security.

Obama and lawmakers are under heavy pressure to reach a deal, and the clock is ticking. They face an Aug. 2 deadline, when the Treasury Department has warned the nation risks defaulting on its debt.

The talks take place against the backdrop of a troubled economy. Friday’s jobs report for June showed the economy added a paltry 18,000 jobs for the month, and stocks on Monday fell as investors worried about the global economy.

Obama blasted “professional politicians” who are downplaying or disputing the dangers of exceeding the debt limit and defaulting, calling that “irresponsible.”

“They know better,” Obama said.

The president did not include Boehner in that critique, even though the Speaker said over the weekend that he was abandoning the big deal in favor of a more “viable” deal based on the work of negotiators led by Vice President Biden. Such a deal would include a deficit-reduction package in the range of $2.4 trillion.

Obama gave Boehner credit for his “very sincere” attempt to get a big deal, saying he thinks the Speaker would “like to do something big.”

“I think he's a good man who wants to do right by the country,” Obama said.

Obama indicated that he will not sign an agreement that does not include some added revenues, and he flat-out said he will not sign a short-term agreement to raise the debt ceiling for only a few months.

“This is the United States of America, and we do not manage our affairs in three-month increments,” Obama said.

The president also disputed Republicans who have suggested he is looking to immediately raise taxes, saying that what he is proposing would not take effect until 2013.

“Nobody's looking to raise taxes right now,” Obama said. “What we have talked about is that starting in 2013, that we have gotten rid of some of these egregious loopholes that are benefiting corporate jet owners or oil companies at a time where they're making billions of dollars of profits.

“So, I have bent over backwards to work with the Republicans to try to come up with a formulation that doesn't require them to vote sometime in the next month to increase taxes. What I've said is, let's identify a revenue package that makes sense, that is commensurate with the sacrifices we're asking other people to make, and then I'm happy to work with you to figure out how else we might do it.”

—Alicia M. Cohn, Russell Berman and Molly K. Hooper contributed to this story.

This story was first posted at 11:59 a.m. and last updated at 2:49 p.m.