By Sam Youngman and Alicia M. Cohn - 07/15/11 03:54 PM EDT
President Obama on Friday kept up the pressure on Republicans to agree to revenue increases in a deal to raise the debt ceiling, claiming 80 percent of the public supports Democrats' demand for tax increases.
"The American people are sold," Obama said. "The problem is members of Congress are dug in ideologically."
Throughout the press conference, Obama blasted Republicans for ignoring what he said is the will of the American people by rejecting tax increases that would balance out spending cuts in a debt package.
"I hope [Republicans are] not just listening to lobbyists and special interests ... I hope they're listening to the American people as well," Obama said, citing "poll after poll" showing Republican voters, as well as Democrats, believe in taking "a balanced approach" — including both increased revenues and spending cuts in a plan to cut the deficit.
Obama repeated his warning that the country is "running out of time" to avert a financial “Armageddon.”
"We should not even be this close on a deadline," Obama said. "This is something we should have accomplished earlier."
The president's press conference came the day after he wrapped up debt-ceiling negotiations at the White House and gave congressional leaders 24 to 36 hours to consult with members on a possible compromise. Obama is pushing for a sweeping package that would save $4 trillion over 10 years.
Obama said he is still pushing for a “big” deal to raise the debt ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline despite the hardening of positions on Capitol Hill.
"I always have hope," Obama said. "Don't you remember my campaign?"
The president signaled he is opposed to the “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal that House Republicans coalesced around Friday morning, and he challenged the GOP to "be ambitious" in proposing a package to cut the deficit.
"If they show me a serious plan, I'm ready to move, even if it requires some tough sacrifices on my part," Obama said.
More from The Hill on the debt talks:
- Cantor on support for new taxes: 'I just disagree'
- Why Cantor didn't speak at Thursday's White House meeting
- Boehner: 'Too many people' in the room
- Republican leaders embrace 'Cut, Cap and Balance' plan
- S&P sees a 50 percent chance of downgrade for US credit rating
- The prickly relationship between Obama, Cantor
Republicans in the House rallied Friday behind an effort to cut spending, cap spending in future years and pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
“We asked the president to lead, we asked him to put forward a plan, not a speech — a real plan — and he hasn’t. We will,” Speaker John Boehner said (R-Ohio) before Obama’s press conference.
The plan would authorize a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt ceiling after Congress passes a balanced-budget amendment.
The president said he had not studied the new Republican proposal, but said it “doesn't sound like a serious plan to me."
Obama also shot down GOP calls for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, saying "we don't need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs."
As he has done since last week, the president challenged Republicans to pursue the biggest plan possible, seizing an "opportunity to stabilize American's finances" for the next 10, 15 or 20 years.
Noting the acknowledgment by Republican leaders that the debt ceiling has to be raised, Obama said that they should not stop at the "routine" decision to increase the government's borrowing authority.
"I'm glad the congressional leaders want to raise the debt ceiling, but I think the American people expect more," Obama said.
The president has repeatedly called for negotiators to put politics aside even as the negotiations have increasingly been framed through the lens of the 2012 election.
Obama said he was hopeful that the leaders would step back from trying to please their base constituencies and move on the debt ceiling, reducing the deficit and other economic agenda items.
"Whatever Sen. [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] says about me on the floor of the Senate is not going to be an impediment to us getting a deal done," Obama said. "You know, the question is going to be whether at any given moment we're willing to set politics aside at least briefly in order to get something done.
He continued: "Surely we can come up with a compromise to solve those problems. So there will be huge differences between now and November 2012 between the parties. And whoever the Republican nominee is, you know, we're going to have a big, serious debate about what we believe is the right way to guide America forward and to win the future. And I'm confident that I will win that debate.”
"And I think increasingly the American people are going to say to themselves, you know what? If a party or a politician is constantly taking the position 'my way or the highway,' constantly being locked into, you know, ideologically rigid positions, that you know, we're going to remember at the polls," Obama said.
Obama didn't rule out the fall-back plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would give the president the power to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a national default.
"It is constructive to say that if Washington operates as usual and can't get anything done, let's at least avert Armageddon," he said. However, Obama said he wanted to address the deeper debt issues.
"I have not seen a credible plan ... that would allow you to get to $2.4 trillion [in savings] without really hurting ordinary folks," he said.
The president said voters are paying attention to "who seems to be trying to get something done” in the high-stakes negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.
“It's going to be in the interests of everybody who wants to serve in this town to make sure they are on the right side of that impression,” he said.
—This story was updated at 12:50 p.m.