President Obama struck a note of pessimism on efforts to reach a grand bargain on the deficit with Congress, saying that the gap between the two parties could be unbridgeable.
“Ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide,” said Obama in an interview with ABC News recorded Tuesday.
“It may be that, ideologically, if their position is, ‘We can’t do any revenue,’ or, ‘We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,’ if that’s the position, then we’re probably not going to be able to get a deal,” he said.
The president’s comments come ahead of his meeting with House Republicans on Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Obama has launched an outreach effort meeting with lawmakers after the battle over the sequester cuts.
The president dined with a dozen GOP senators last week and then held a lunch with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). On Tuesday, Obama met with Senate Democrats during their weekly lunch.
Both sides, though, remain far apart on budgetary issues. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats and House Republicans unveiled competing budget proposals, highlighting their differences.
Ryan’s plan would cut spending by $5.7 trillion, while reducing the top tax rate to 25 percent. The proposal would balance in 10 years.
The Senate Democratic plan would raise $1 trillion in new taxes, and would not balance.
Obama’s outreach efforts have also attracted caution from both sides, with Ryan calling the efforts “not terribly charming” and questioning if the president was sincere.
“The question is, is there follow-through? The question is, does the campaign start back up or does the engagement continue in a real and constructive way? I don’t know the answer to that, time will tell,” Ryan said on Wednesday.
Senate Democrats expressed concern that the president would give too much on entitlement reform and pressed Obama to back away from benefit cuts during their meeting Tuesday.
Obama in his interview said that he did not anticipate another “crisis” if lawmakers and the White House failed to reach a broader deficit accord.
“That won’t create a crisis. It just means that we will have missed an opportunity,” said Obama. “I think that opportunity is there and I’m going to make sure that they know that I’m prepared to – work with them. But ultimately, it may be better if some Democratic and Republican senators work together.”