Wednesday, June 29, 2011
It is time for lawmakers in Washington to stop "playing games" and "do the right thing" to cut the federal deficit, President Obama declared at a White House news conference today. And he called on Republicans to set aside their firm opposition to any changes in taxes and acknowledged that Democrats will have to accept some "painful" cuts in programs they favor.
Obama chided congress for still planning to go on recess after this week even as much work remains on deficit and debt negotiations. His young daughters, Obama said, don't do their homework at the last minute — Congress shouldn't put off getting its work done either.
The president also defended the constitutionality of U.S. involvement in the military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and praised New York State's approval of a law legalizing same-sex marriage — though he stopped short of announcing a change in his personal opposition to such unions.
We live-blogged as it happened. Later, check It's All Politics for analysis.
Update at 1:25 p.m. ET. A Republican Response:
" 'Leaders are going to lead"? If Obama had been leading on fiscal responsibility, he wouldn't have to raise taxes." (Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, on his Twitter page.)
Update at 12:50 p.m. ET. "We Know What To Do":
As he wraps up, the president says that the letters and messages he gets from many Americans about how worried they are "weighs on me."
"We know what to do" to help such Americans, he says. "We know that if we are educating our kids well, then they're going to be more competitive. ... If we are investing in things like infrastructure, then it pays off. ... We know that we've got to get control of this deficit."
Americans, he adds at the finish, "desperately want to believe that their leadership is thinking about them and not playing games."
Congress needs to show some of the maturity that his young daughters have, the president says, as lawmakers try to reach a deal on debt and deficit reduction.
Malia and Sasha, he says, get their homework done a day ahead of time. "They don't wait until the night before. They're not pulling all-nighters. They're 13 and 10."
"You need to be here," he tells lawmakers, who will be heading out for a recess on Friday, pointing out that he's been there "for bin Laden ... for Greece."
Update at 12:38 p.m. ET. More On The Debt:
Continuing his discussion of the debt ceiling deadline, the president says that anyone who argues that the U.S. could stop paying its bills forgets that Congress already agreed to spend the money that caused the debt.
"They took the vacation. They bought the car," he says, in an analogy. "And now they're saying 'maybe we dont have to pay.' "
Update at 12:34 p.m. ET. Is The Aug. 2 Debt Ceiling Deadline For Real?
There have been other so-called deadlines when the federal debt ceiling needed to be raised and they came and went with no problems after extensions, the president is told. Why is the Aug. 2 deadline for real?
"This is a jobs issue, this is not an abstraction," he says. "If the United States government, for the first time, cannot pay its bills ... then the consequences for the U.S. economy will be significant and unpredictable. And that is not a good thing."
Update at 12:28 p.m. ET. "Appropriate Actions Will Be Taken" Regarding "Fast And Furious":
After saying that he does not approve of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' "fast and furious" program that allowed guns to get into the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico, the president says that "as soon as the investigation is completed, I think appropriate actions will be taken."
Update at 12:24 p.m. ET. No News On Same-Sex Marriage:
Asked if his words of praise for New York's passage of legislation legalizing same-sex marriage means he has dropped his personal opposition to it, the president sidesteps, saying he's not going to make news on that subject today.
Update at 12:23 p.m. ET. On Gadhafi:
"He needs to step down, he needs to go," the president says of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Update at 12:17 p.m. ET. The Drawdown Of Troops In Afghanistan:
The goal of his plan to withdraw some combat troops from Afghanistan over the next year, Obama says, is to do it "in a responsible way that will allow Afghanistan to defend itself and give us the operational capacity to continue to put pressure on al-Qaida."
There will still be, however, events such as Tuesday's attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul, Obama says. But, he believes that the "tide of war" is receding in Afghanistan.
Update at 12:12 p.m. ET. Is There A Lack Of Clarity On What To Do With Captured Terrorists?
Obama is asked about what the U.S. policy is concerning the capture of terrorists abroad and how they should be dealt with.
American military personnel, he says, know that their top priority is "to make sure they apprehend the individual safely" — that is, without any harm to the U.S. forces. After that, his priority is to get "those who would attack the United States" and make sure "we're getting all the intelligence we can ... in a way that is consistent with the due process of law."
Update at 12:05 p.m. ET. On Same-Sex Marriage:
The subject of New York's recent move to legalize same-sex marriage is raised. The president says the debate in that state and eventual passage of the legislation "was a good thing."
Gays, transsexuals and others have "got to be treated like every other American ... that principle will win out," he adds, though "it's not going to be smooth" as changes occur.
Update at 11:59 a.m. ET. Is The Libya Campaign Constitutional?
Asked if he believes the War Powers Act is constitutional — a question that rises because of the American role in the military action in Libya — the president says that "a lot of this fuss is politics."
The U.S., he says, has "done exactly what I said we would do" — support a NATO-led military effort to stop Moammar Gadhafi from killing his people, with "no American troops on the ground."
"The answer is no," he says, if the question is whether his administration's actions violate the War Powers Act.
Update at 11:52 a.m. ET. First Question; On Republicans And Taxes:
Asked how he can reach an agreement on deficit reduction if Republicans hold firm on their opposition to any tax increases, the president says that "a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or get on cable news. ... Hopefully, leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and do the right thing."
That includes Democrats, he says, who will "have to accept some painful spending cuts."
If Democrats are willing to give on their sacred cows, Obama adds, then it will be "hard for the Republicans to stand there and say [for example that] the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that 'we are not willing to come to the table and get a deal done.' "
Update at 11:47 a.m. ET. On Taxes:
After saying "we're going to need to look at the whole budget," including entitlements and defense spending, the president says that "yes, we're going to have to tackle spending in the tax code."
What he means, Obama says, is that "I want to extend ... middle class tax cuts," while closing "tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires ... tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers."
Update at 11:44 a.m. ET. The Deficit:
"One of the most important and urgent things we can do for the economy," the president says, "is reducing the nation's deficit."
Update at 11:42 a.m. ET. Starting With The Economy:
As he begins his opening comments, the president says there are "a lot of folks out there who are still struggling with the effects of the recession."
He recaps some of the things he says his administration is doing to try to get the economy moving and calls on congress to pass some bills — including trade agreements — that he says would support "tens of thousands of American jobs."
Update at 11:36 a.m. ET: The news conference was supposed to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET. As sometimes happens, things are running late.
Update at 11:25 a.m. ET: On the NPR broadcast, our colleague Mara Liasson just said the the president is expected to use the news conference "to push back against the Republicans" and their view that Obama and his fellow Democrats want to raise taxes. The president, Mara said, will argue that "no, we're trying to get rid of tax loopholes or tax breaks" to help shrink the deficit.