Obama Pushes Republicans on Taxes
President Barack Obama insisted on eliminating tax breaks for oil companies and the super-rich as part of any plan to tackle the nation’s deficit, casting himself as a voice of reason. Unfazed, Republican lawmakers stuck to their vow to block new taxes.
Speaking at his first news conference in three months, Obama said on Wednesday that Congress must make significant progress by the week’s end in what have been desultory and lengthy negotiations on a debt-cutting plan that Republicans are demanding in return for raising the US debt limit. He castigated legislators for planning summer recesses while the American economy faced such serious threats.
The Treasury Department says it must be able to borrow more money by Aug. 2 or the United States faces an unprecedented default on its mounting $14.3 trillion debt, predicted to grow by $1.4 trillion by the end of this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.
Obama, facing a re-election bid in November 2012, has watched his poll numbers languish below 50 percent approval, primarily because of the sluggish economic recovery after the latest recession.
With the coming election fight clearly in mind, he openly attacked Republicans for holding on to what he called an “unsustainable” position. Regardless, the opposition party says it will not vote to raise the debt limit unless Democrats agree — without any tax increases — to $2 trillion in cuts to government spending over 10 years.
Obama’s aggressive response came with the country souring on the recovery, the Republican presidential contenders taking aim at his economic record and opposition leaders in Congress challenging him to show more leadership in the debt talks. His re-election hinges on the economy, and Obama is trying to restore a sense of public confidence.
Obama has faced such countdowns before. He and Congress avoided a government shutdown earlier this year at the last possible moment. They cut a deal on taxes in December, days before a tax increase would have automatically kicked in.
The president called on lawmakers to work through their Fourth of July Independence Day recess. By late Wednesday, the Senate appeared ready to comply.
As Obama spoke, the International Monetary Fund warned that inaction on raising the debt limit could produce a spike in interest rates and “severe shock to the economy and world financial markets.” AP