President Obama held his third news conference in the past 10 days to announce that he and congressional leaders from both parties and chambers have reached a deal to raise the debt ceiling. The details have yet to be finalized, but it would raise the debt ceiling through 2012 in two stages; make $1 trillion in immediate spending cuts; and create a special congressional panel that must recommend and get through Congress an additional $1.8 trillion in spending cuts. If the panel fails to do so, across-the-board cuts would be triggered.
“The result would be the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was president but at a level that still allows us to make job-creating investments in things like education and research. We also made sure that these cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on a fragile economy,” Obama said.
The president said that he would spend the next few months continuing to argue to members of both parties that the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations should pay their fair share by giving up tax breaks and special deductions and that modifications must be made to entitlements to ensure that they are around to aid future generations. He also said that by establishing the bipartisan committee tasked to develop by November a proposal to reduce the deficit for an up or down vote would hold lawmakers accountable, otherwise, “tough cuts that both parties would find objectionable would automatically go into effect if we don’t act.”
“Now, is the deal I would have preferred? No. I believe that we could have made the tough choices required on entitlement reform and tax reform right now, rather than through a special congressional committee process,” Obama said. “This compromise does make a serious down payment on the deficit reduction we need and gives each party a strong incentive to get a balanced plan done before the end of the year.”
He added that the most important factor is that a default will be avoided and the deal would lift a cloud of doubt and uncertainty that is hanging over the nation’s fragile economy. He also thanked the American public for adding their voices to the debate through e-mails, phone calls and tweets and urged Capitol Hill lawmakers to “do the right thing” and support the deal.
It’s going to be a tough sell in the House. Shortly after the president’s remarks, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emmanuel Cleaver in an interview on MNSBC called the plan a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich.” He also said that if he were a Republican he’d be dancing in the streets because they got everything they wanted and all Democrats got was avoiding a default.
“Some of us can be counted on [to support] it and some of us can be counted out,” Cleaver said.
House and Senate leaders plan to spend Monday morning convincing their members to get on board and vote for the measure. It won’t be easy.
Related Exclusive Video: White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett on the Debt Limit
Part 1: What happens if the U.S. defaults on its debt obligations?
Part 2: As the Black-white wealth gap widens, will core social programs be preserved?
Part 3: How can the Obama administration ensure Americans' needs aren't forgotten?
(Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)