Obama taking budget plan to forums

April 18, 2011 at 4:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 18 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama will use "town hall" meetings to tout his plan to trim the U.S. debt with spending cuts and tax hikes on the rich, the White House said.

His three campaign-style meetings will be held Tuesday at Northern Virginia Community College, 12 miles southwest of Washington, Wednesday at Facebook Inc. headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., and Thursday in Reno, Nev., which Obama hasn't visited since running for president.

Before hitting the road, Obama will discuss his debt-reduction vision Monday in local interviews from the White House Map Room with KCNC-TV, Denver, WRAL-TV, Raleigh, N.C., WFAA-TV, Dallas, and WTHR-TV, Indianapolis, the White House said.

The blitz comes a week after Obama said Washington could reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years, while retaining core Democratic values, through a mix of deep cuts in military and domestic spending, higher taxes on the wealthy and changes to social-welfare programs.

Republicans quickly declared Obama's ideas inadequate and said they would press ahead with their own plans for deep spending cuts and an overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid.

House Republicans passed a budget Friday that would cut the deficit by $5.8 trillion in 10 years with program cuts alone. No Democrats voted for the plan.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted March 10-13 indicated most Americans disapprove of Obama's record on the deficit, but agree a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes on the wealthy is the best remedy for the deficit crisis.

The next front line in the deficit battle involves raising the limit on how much the federal government can borrow.

The U.S. Treasury Department says the nation will exceed the current limit of $14.3 trillion by mid-May and could default on its debt in early July if no action is taken to raise the ceiling.

Republican lawmakers want legislation to cut government spending to be part of a vote to raise the debt limit. The White House says deficit reduction should be separated from the debt-limit issue.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Republican leaders assured the White House Wednesday that despite all the political noise, they would lift the debt ceiling in time to avoid a potential credit default.

"I want to make it perfectly clear that Congress will raise the debt ceiling," Geithner said on ABC's "This Week."

He said failing to raise the debt limit "would be catastrophic," pushing the United States and the world back into a "dramatic" financial crisis that would make the last crisis look "tame."

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., whose cost-cutting budget blueprint passed the House Friday, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Republicans did not promise Obama they would lift the debt limit without first seeing federal spending controls.

"Nobody wants to play around with the country's credit rating," Ryan said. "Nobody wants to see defaults happening. But we also think it's important to get a handle on future borrowing as we deal with raising the debt limit. So nobody is saying we want to see default. We just want to get some cuts and controls in spending going forward. And that is what we've been telling the White House."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. -- a Tea Party supporter who has vowed to oppose raising the debt ceiling unless it comes along with an agreement on budget cuts -- pointed to a possible compromise.

"The compromise is not to raise taxes," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." "The compromise is for conservatives to admit ... we will have to cut military spending. Liberals will have to compromise and we will have to cut domestic welfare. The compromise is where we cut, not where we raise taxes."

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