Boehner, Reid offer competing debt plans

July 25, 2011 at 10:00 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Monday berated Republicans for their "cuts-only approach" to reducing the deficit and raising the debt ceiling.

The Democratic president criticized intransigent lawmakers who would make compromise "a dirty word" and would allow "American people to become collateral damage to Washington's political warfare."

"This is no way to run the greatest country on Earth," Obama said of the brinksmanship that has the nation teetering toward the possibility of default on its financial obligation. "It's a dangerous game that we've never played before, and we can't afford to play it now, not when the jobs and livelihoods of so many families are at stake."

While he offered no specific way to break the stalemate, Obama urged Americans to contact their congressmen with their views.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, followed Obama's 15-minute address to a national audience with a 6-minute speech of his own.

Boehner blamed the healthcare reform bill and the stimulus package for putting the United States in its current economic morass.

He pushed the Republicans so-called "cut, cap and balance" plan approved by the House last week and rejected by the Senate and accused the president of refusing to take yes for an answer.

"The president wanted a blank check six months ago and he wants a blank check today," Boehner said, adding the balanced approach the president talks about means "we spend more and you pay more."

That, he said, just won't work.

"This debate isn't about President Obama and Republicans … . It's about the future we see for ourselves and our families," he said, adding, "The solution is not complicated." He said if you take in less, you spend less.

The U.S. government is facing an Aug. 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling to avert possible default on some obligations. Talks on the issue have been under way for weeks but Boehner walked out on the negotiations Friday.

Obama has been pushing for a "balanced approach" that cuts spending, restructures entitlements and raises taxes on those making more than $250,000 annually.

"The only reason this balanced approach isn't on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a cuts-only approach -- an approach that doesn't ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all," Obama said. "And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scales, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about -- cuts that place a greater burden on working families."

Obama outlined the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling and called such action irresponsible. He also criticized the plan offered by Boehner earlier in the day that provides only a temporary solution.

"Defaulting on our obligations is a reckless and irresponsible outcome to this debate," Obama said. "And Republican leaders say that they agree we must avoid default. But the new approach that Speaker Boehner unveiled today, which would temporarily extend the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts, would force us to once again face the threat of default just six months from now. …

"Based on what we've seen these past few weeks, we know what to expect six months from now. The House will once again refuse to prevent default unless the rest of us accept their cuts-only approach. Again, they will refuse to ask the wealthiest Americans to give up their tax cuts or deductions. Again, they will demand harsh cuts to programs like Medicare. And once again, the economy will be held captive unless they get their way."

Obama said Americans are tired of the political gamesmanship and urged voters to contact their congressmen and urge them to come together on a compromise.

"History is scattered with the stories of those who held fast to rigid ideologies and refused to listen to those who disagreed," he said. "But those are not the Americans we remember. We remember the Americans who put country above self, and set personal grievances aside for the greater good. We remember the Americans who held this country together during its most difficult hours; who put aside pride and party to form a more perfect union.

"That's who we remember. That's who we need to be right now. The entire world is watching."

Boehner and Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., unveiled their own plans Monday.

Boehner proposed a two-step plan to cut spending by nearly $3 trillion, outlining his plan to his caucus in a closed-door meeting while Reid presented a plan to slash $2.7 trillion, The Washington Post reported.

Boehner's plan would allow for an immediate increase in the debt ceiling of as much as $1 trillion paired with $1.2 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending during the next 10 years, documents obtained by the Post indicate. A new, joint House-Senate committee of 12 lawmakers would be mandated to come up with a plan to mark $1.8 trillion more in deficit savings in 10 years by Christmas, receiving powers to guarantee up-or-down votes on their output if they produce a plan that wins seven votes from the panel.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said Reid's package would include cuts of as much as $1.2 trillion over the next decade across government, including the Defense Department, the Post said. Democrats previously offered to accept those cuts, as well as about $200 billion in cuts to non-health direct-payment programs, such as farm subsidies.

Reid's approach would meet Republicans' two major criteria: spending cuts designed to meet or exceed the amount of the debt-limit increase and no new taxes, the Post said.

The Hill reported Reid's plan would include $1 trillion in savings from ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and would also raise the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion, ensuring another hike would not be necessary in 2012.

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