President Obama placed blame for the failure of the “super committee” squarely on Republicans, saying their refusal to consider raising taxes as part of a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction remains the key stumbling block.
“There are still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington,” Obama said in brief comments to reporters Monday night.
The failure of the 12-member panel to put forward its own deficit-reduction plan by tonight’s deadline set off a predictable round of blame-shifting in Washington.
Holding off for the moment was House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who thanked the committee’s leaders for “the dignified and statesmanlike manner” in which they handled its efforts, and promised that its work would carry forward.
“This process did not end in the desired outcome, but it did bring our enormous fiscal challenges into greater focus,” Boehner said. “I am confident the work done by this committee will play a role in the solution we must eventually find as a nation.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid(D-Nev.) took a far more combative tone, offering a preview of the rhetoric sure to dominate the next election cycle.
Reid said Republicans never stood up to “tea party extremists,” cowered to anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and “relentlessly sought to end Medicare as we know it.”
Other Republicans dished it back. Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida took aim at Obama, saying the committee’s “fate was sealed by the president’s failure to put forward a plan to cut spending and his unbreakable obsession with raising taxes on job creators.”
Several Republican lawmakers immediately jumped to the next step in the process, vowing to block the steep cuts in defense spending triggered by the failure.
“As every military and civilian defense official has stated, these cuts represent a threat to the national security interests of the United States and cannot be allowed to occur,” said Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a joint statement.
Obama warned members of Congress that he won’t let them put off the automatic cuts without agreeing on a debt- and deficit-reduction plan.
“My message to them is simple,” Obama said. “No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts.... There will be no easy off-ramps on this one.”
Without such pressure to compromise, Obama said, the divided Congress will never work together.
“The only way the cuts will not take place,” he said, “is if Congress gets back to work.... They’ve still got a year to figure it out.”
“The sequester was designed to be painful, and it is. But that is the commitment to fiscal responsibility that both parties made to the American people. In the absence of a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by at least as much, I will oppose any efforts to change or roll back the sequester,” his statement said.
Some lawmakers immediately began pushing for a vote on the so-called Bowles-Simpson plan, the proposal put forward and rejected by Obama’s deficit commission last year.
Graham urged Obama to call for votes on the plan.
“Like any serious plan to address our nation’s long-term fiscal health, the Bowles-Simpson plan has many provisions which give me heartburn. And while the Bowles-Simpson framework may not be perfect, it is better than the status quo,” he said. “On balance, the plan begins to make the necessary changes which will address the fiscal calamity we are facing.”
Sen. Joe Manchin III, a freshman Democrat from West Virginia, issued the same request Monday morning.
“You’ve got to find a solution. If the 12 on the super committee can’t find it, you’ve got to find people who can,” he said.
Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.