White House officials have had the unenviable task of spending their day defending the deal that President Obama negotiatiated with congressional Republicans to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default by the Aug. 2 deadline. It’s not a perfect solution by anybody’s estimation, but according to Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Obama did the best that anyone could have given the circumstances. More important, she said, nothing could be worse than default.
The bipartisan plan raises the debt ceiling through 2012; makes $1 trillion in immediate spending cuts; and creates a special congressional panel that must recommend and get through Congress an additional $1.8 trillion in spending cuts by November. If the panel fails to do so, across-the-board cuts in discretionary domestic and defense programs would be automatically triggered.
“He really did protect people who are most vulnerable and he was dealing with the art of the possible,” Jarrett said during a Monday afternoon conference call. “Ideally we would have had revenues in this first part of the package. When the president outlined his view of a grand bargain a couple of weeks ago, we would have had substantial deficit reduction, but we would have also had revenues.”
Democrats were relieved to learn that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be impacted by the deal, but it’s the details that worry them most, in part because they have no idea where the cuts will come from.
“The challenge is that we know there will be cuts, but it’s not clear where those cuts will be,” said Rep. Karen Bass. “But what I do feel good about is [the entitlements]."
Bass was not certain that she would support the bill when it comes up for a vote Monday evening, but other Black lawmakers firmly stated that they would oppose it.
“This bill is going to exacerbate the pain and joblessness in African-American communities. Not only do we take cuts up front, but also this super committee that is designed to come up with what the next set of cuts will be can do whatever they want,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, a definite nay vote.
She also was not impressed by the fact that the entitlements and programs that aid the low income would be exempt from the automatic, across-the-board cuts if the special congressional committee becomes deadlocked.
“Between now and then, they can cut everything they want to,” she said. “Given our inability to be tough and to be good negotiators, I don’t trust that we’ll do any better then than we’re doing now.”
Rep. Yvette Clarke said that her conscience would not allow her to support the measure.
“Our communities have had to bear the brunt of the recession, of losing their homes and high unemployment. This bill just compounds that and there’s no way in a constituency like mine, where they’ve struggled through this and had faith that we would look after their interests, that I can go back and say the wealthiest people in this nation don’t have to sacrifice anything but we’re going to take another pound of flesh from you,” she said.
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: UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg/LANDOV)