At news conference, Obama portrays himself as compromiser in chief

Washington Bureau

President Obama says he will not sign a three- to six-month bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, and instead is calling on Republicans to set aside politics and agree on a long-term compromise before the country hits the debt limit Aug. 2.

The administration is not making contingency plans in the event that Congress won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling in time, Obama told reporters Monday morning, predicting during a news conference that “we are going to get this done” before the deadline.

As leaders prepared for an afternoon meeting on the issue at the White House, Obama pledged to bring Republicans and Democrats together “every single day” until they work out an agreement to avert a credit default with a plan on debt and deficit reduction.

Republicans have been saying for months that it’s a “moral imperative” for the president and Congress to tackle debts and deficits, Obama said, arguing that he has moved toward their position in hopes of working out a compromise.


“What I’ve said to them is, ‘Let’s go,’” Obama said. Such a deal would let Americans know “this town can actually do something once in a while.”

The clear theme of Obama’s message is his own personal willingness to compromise, a reminder he now delivers with every tour before the cameras. By commanding an hour’s worth of television time Monday -- the second such performance in two weeks -- he is making it clear to Republicans that he plans to make liberal use of the presidential podium as the talks wear on.

Just days ago the parties seemed to be moving toward what they called a “grand bargain” that would cut $4 trillion from federal deficits over the next decade, mostly with spending cuts but partly from tax increases. But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Obama on Saturday and told him that such a thing couldn’t pass in that chamber. He suggested working toward a smaller deal.

Then, when the leaders met on Sunday, Obama told them they should think big and tackle the difficult tasks of spending cuts, tax revenues and entitlement reform in one big, brave deal.

As they prepared to assemble again on Monday, Obama made it clear that his message would be the same as they move forward. He is not insisting publicly on a grand bargain, but argues it would be a wise play for them politically and policy-wise.

“If you’re going to take a bunch of tough votes, you might as well do it now,” Obama said. “I’m willing to move in their direction to get something done. … We have a system of government in which everybody’s going to have to give a little bit.”