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Monday, July 11, 2011

Boehner says Dems not willing to make debt deal

(Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
By Stephanie Condon - cbsnews.com

President Obama said today that he's willing to "to tackle our debt and deficits in a serious way," but House Speaker John Boehner says that isn't true.

"This boils down to two things," Boehner told reporters, after Mr. Obama gave a White House press conference regarding negotiations to lower the deficit and raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before August 2. By that date, the administration says, the United States will no longer be able to pay its bills without an increase in the amount it can borrow.

"The president continues to insist on raising taxes, and [Democrats] are just not serious enough about fundamental entitlement reform to solve the problem," Boehner said. "It takes two to tango, and they're not there yet."

The president has been negotiating with Congress over a deal to reduce the deficit over the next decade by trillions of dollars. Republicans have insisted on creating a deficit and debt reduction plan as a condition of voting to raise the debt ceiling - the amount of money that the U.S. government is technically allowed to borrow.

Boehner said today he agrees with the president that the debt ceiling must be raised. "We cannot allow our nation to default on our debt," he said. The United States has never defaulted on its debt.

Mr. Obama has been seeking a deal that includes $4 trillion in budget savings over a decade, but Boehner said on Saturday that a mid-size package of reforms -- closer to $2 trillion in savings, with no tax increases -- is the only politically viable solution.

The president insisted today that he isn't seeking to raise taxes -- just close certain tax loopholes. Yet Boehner said today their disagreement is "not about closing loopholes."

"Our disagreement is over raising taxes on the very people that we're asking to create jobs in our country," he said. He added, however, that allowing tax rates to go up has never been part of the discussion.

Boehner said there had been a conversation underway about raising revenues.

"Revenues in the context of tax reform -- lowering the rates, broadening the base," Boehner explained. "There is in, fact, a way to do this."

Yet, he said, "That conversation can't continue if they're not serious about fundamental reform of entitlement programs."

Mr. Obama said today that he was willing to make political sacrifices in order to reach a deal, including agreeing to changes in programs like Social Security. Boehner said, however, that the president was not willing to make changes that were significant enough.

"I understand this is going to take sacrifice and political capital on both sides. I'm certainly willing to take my share of it," Boehner said. "If we're going to take political capital, let's step up and do the big thing and the right thing for the country."

In addition to significant changes to entitlement programs, Boehner said Republicans were seeking a balanced budget amendment, spending cuts that are larger than the hike in the debt limit, and spending caps.


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