Dem leaders stand by Obama on debt talks, slam Boehner's move

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday evening blamed Republicans for the breakdown in deficit reduction talks and echoed the president in insisting that any deal to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the national debt has to be built on a balance between spending cuts and new revenues.

“Republicans have once again proven unable to overcome their ideological opposition to ending taxpayer-funded giveaways for millionaires, corporate jet owners and oil companies," Reid said in a statement issued shortly after President Obama spoke in White House briefing room about Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) leaving negotiations with the White House.

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"I applaud President Obama for insisting that any deal to reduce our deficit be balanced between cuts and revenues," Reid said. "We must avert a default at all costs, so it is time to reengage in bipartisan talks on an agreement that at least accomplishes that goal.

“I agree with President Obama that a short-term extension is unacceptable,” Reid said.

The president at his press conference said he would sign a bill that raises the debt ceiling until 2013 but was hopeful that Congress could do more and take substantial steps towards tackling the nation's debt crisis.

Boehner ended his talks with Obama earlier Friday, saying that the president remained "emphatic that taxes have to be raised."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) echoed the Speaker on the reason for the impasse, saying that the Democratic side insisted on "raising taxes on small businesses and working families."

Boehner said he was hopeful the two chambers of Congress could hammer out a deal and that the White House would work with Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) responded to Boehner's scuttling of talks with the White House by saying that the time has come "for the debate to move out of a room in the White House and on to the House and Senate floors where we can debate the best approach to reducing the nation's unsustainable debt."

Boehner said the leaders were never close to a deal. Obama, at his press conference, disagreed, saying the sides were closing in on a deal that would cut trillions from federal programs and only raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

"It's hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would want to walk away from this deal," Obama said. "I've been left at the altar now a couple of times."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, expressed shock at Boehner's move.

“It is absolutely stunning to see House Republicans walking away from the negotiating table for a third time at a critical moment for our country’s economy and finances," Van Hollen said in a statement. "The time is now for the Speaker to assert leadership over the fringe elements of his own party and have the adult moment that he promised months ago. Their rigid ideology and refusal to compromise on a balanced approach threatens American jobs and our fragile economic recovery, and it is deeply irresponsible.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a statement following Obama’s press conference:

"Speaker Boehner's adult moment is long overdue. Our economy, our children's education, our seniors' security and our nation's fiscal soundness require that we act without further delay. Democrats have been prepared to support President Obama's call for a grand bargain, which enables us to create jobs, protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. We are prepared to compromise consistent with our values, but we will not accept a short-term extension that compromises our economic security."

Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democratic Whip, said in a statement that he was "extremely disappointed that once again Speaker Boehner and House Republicans have chosen to walk away from talks to reach a comprehensive deficit reduction plan."

"It is my understanding that Speaker Boehner made an offer for a long-term comprehensive solution, which he's stated he is for, and that the President supports," Hoyer said. "Unfortunately, included in Speaker Boehner’s offer was an unrelated demand that a portion of the Affordable Care Act be repealed — which would neither help America pay its bills or reduce the deficit."

Obama at his press conference reiterated the Democratic position that they are not willing to put the bulk of the burden for deficit reduction on the backs of the middle class by consenting to large cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Updated at 7:56 p.m. and 8:17 p.m.

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