Friday, July 22, 2011

Obama vows hard choices: debt as Democrats fume

President Barack Obama took his call for compromise on Washington's contentious debt reduction talks on the road Friday, telling an audience at the University of Maryland that politicians need to "wind it back" and stop "demonizing the other side."
He didn't hesitate to lash out at GOP resistance to tax hikes in the marathon negotiations, however, declaring that it's time for "the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations (to) do their part."
"This isn't some wild-eyed socialist position, (and) this isn't about punishing wealth," Obama said. "This is about asking people who have benefited the most over the last decade to share in the sacrifice. I think these patriotic Americans are willing to pitch in if they're asked."
His remarks came shortly after the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the GOP's "cut, cap and balance" deficit reduction plan Friday, voting to set the measure aside and clear a path for further negotiations on what Democrats insist must be a more centrist measure that balances spending reductions and tax hikes.
The Republican plan, which passed the GOP-controlled House earlier in the week, would have tied a debt ceiling increase to sweeping reductions in federal spending, caps on future expenditures and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

With the deadline to raise the U.S. debt ceiling now just 11 days away, Obama appealed for compromise by both parties as he and the top Republican in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, pursued a plan for up to $3 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years.

"I'm willing to sign a plan that includes tough choices I would not normally make, and there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans in Congress who I believe are willing to do the same thing," Obama said at a townhall-style meeting at the University of Maryland.

While an agreement did not look imminent, Obama faced increasingly vocal complaints from his own Democrats on a deal-in-the-making that could mean painful curbs in popular health and retirement programs but no immediate increase in taxes.

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