Obama eyes 'common sense caucus' on budget

March 13, 2013 at 4:18 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama says he is trying to identify a "common sense caucus" of members of Congress who can reach a compromise on the budget crisis.

In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Obama was asked whether his current series of meetings with members of Congress was designed to "go around" GOP leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who has insisted Republicans will not accept any new revenues as part of deficit reduction.

"I don't think it's to break or go around them," Obama said. "I think it is to identify -- members, particularly in the Senate, but I think also in the House, who are just tired of havin' the same argument over and over again. And -- what I call the common-sense caucus, which says -- we can do sensible deficit reduction with a combination of entitlement reform, some judicious spending cuts, closing some tax loopholes that nobody really defends on their own."

With this group, "we can do sensible deficit reduction with a combination of entitlement reform, some judicious spending cuts, closing some tax loopholes that nobody really defends on their own," the president said.

Rather than the arbitrary cuts created by the sequestration, the president said, "we can actually put in place a growth strategy that creates jobs and protects the middle class and helps them thrive and grow."

He said there were only "a finite number of changes that could be made to deal with our deficit."

The interview aired hours before Obama met on Capitol Hill with House Republicans, telling them balancing the federal budget is not his top priority.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., one of several Republicans who left the meeting before it concluded, said Obama told Republicans he is concerned balancing the budget would require spending cuts so deep they would slow the economic recovery, Roll Call reported.

In recent dinner meetings with congressional leaders, Obama said he had discovered that "people don't always know what I've actually proposed. And it's a lot easier to have a conversation when there's something specific."

Obama downplayed the consequences should Congress not come to a budget agreement.

There is no "immediate crisis," he said, but failing to find a solution "means that we will have missed an opportunity."

White House press secretary, asked at Wednesday's daily briefing with reporters about the president's contention that there is no immediate debt crisis, said the economy has stabilized since the financial meltdown of 2008 and is "back on the path of growth and job creation."

"Once that stabilization began to take hold, he turned towards the task of reducing our deficit, which he believes is also a worthy and necessary goal when it is part of the overall project, the overall number-one priority which is growth and job creation," Carney said.

Carney said the deficit as a share of gross domestic product has fallen each year since 2010.

"We need to make decisions that affect the long term, and the long term not just in terms of deficit reduction, but in terms of economic growth," Carney said.

He also noted Obama has signed into law "with Democratic support more than $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction, more than four to one, four dollars to one dollar in spending cuts. That represents compromise."

In response to a question about North Korea's cancellation of the 1953 armistice agreement and threats to fire a nuclear missile at the United States, Obama said an apparent weakening of China's support for the reclusive country was "most promising."

That change in China's attitude may allow the West to "force a recalculation" by North Korea of its belligerent stance, he said.

He deflected a question about whether he should have a direct conversation with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un.

"I think that you always wanna create the conditions where if you have a conversation, it's actually useful," Obama said, adding the North Koreans "know what our bottom lines are."

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