Obama again presses GOP to move on taxes in debt deal

Washington Bureau

If President Obama is indeed pursuing a deal with House Speaker John Boehner that would lack an ironclad agreement to boost government receipts, he didn’t show his hand Friday.

At a town-hall-style event at the University of Maryland, Obama again restated his long-standing position that any accord to raise the federal debt ceiling must combine spending cuts with revenue generators stemming from a rewrite of the tax code.

“We can’t just close our deficit with spending cuts alone,” Obama said before a crowd in College Park, Md. “If we only do it with cuts ... a lot of ordinary people would be hurt and the country as whole would be hurt.”


The president’s remarks came after reports surfaced that the White House was drawing up a deal with House Republicans that would feature $3 trillion in cuts over the next decade but would postpone tax reform into next year, with uncertain guarantees that those reforms would ever occur.

The reports made Senate Democrats apoplectic—and the administration was quick to say that no such deal had been reached.

At the same time, Boehner, too, denied Friday that any such agreement was in the works.

The University of Maryland event instead became an opportunity for Obama to again illustrate the sharp divisions that remain in the path of any large-scale plan to raise the $14.3-trillion debt ceiling, with just 11 days to go until a potentially catastrophic federal default. And he did not hesitate to portray himself as the responsible party in the talks, saying he had agreed to a “historic amount” of reductions in government spending -- including Pentagon and entitlement program cuts -- but that the GOP had yet to make concessions on eliminating tax breaks for the “wealthiest Americans” and the “biggest corporations.”

Obama, addressing a largely young and approving crowd, his jacket off and sleeves rolled up, said he believed that many Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill want a “balanced” package, and “the only people we have left to convince are some folks in the House of Representatives.”

Referring to the elections last November that handed control of the House to the GOP, he said, “In 2010, Americans chose a divided government. But they didn’t choose a dysfunctional government.” The line was met with sustained applause.

Still, Obama, in an indirect way, conceded that many voters are unhappy with his administration.


One Maryland student told the president that “obviously” he has had a “successful presidency.”

“That’s not obvious to everyone,” Obama retorted.

Debt-ceiling talks are expected to continue through the weekend, although neither the House nor the Senate will be in session. The president said he remained confident a deal would be reached. “The United States of America does not run out without paying the tab,” he said. “We pay our bills. We meet our obligations.”