Citing his two daughters as examples of people who get it done on time without procrastinating or bringing it down to the last minute, President Obama called out Congress, and Republicans in particular, for failing to make the 'hard choices' necessary to establish a framework for deficit reduction and raising the debt ceiling.
It frustrates me that the two arguments -- revenue/budget issues and the debt ceiling -- are being conflated, because one really has nothing to do with the other. However, when you have wingnuts in Congress like Republican Rep. Ron Johnson, who threatened to shut down the Senate if a budget bill doesn't come to the floor (regardless of whether it could actually pass, mind you), the frame gets distorted this way. It also frustrates me that Democrats, including the President, are allowing Republicans to define that frame.
President Obama came out in the beginning with a forceful statement saying that it's time for Republicans to accept a balanced package of increased revenues blended with spending cuts. The message was pretty clearly stated: Quit holding your breath and behaving like children. At one point in the larger press conference (not the clip above), he said this:
“They’re in one week, they’re out one week,” said Obama of Congress. “And then they’re saying Obama needs to step in. I’ve been here.”
He repeatedly challenged Republicans to make compromises in order to adopt a truly “balanced approach” to the debt deal; “Call me naive, but my expectation is leaders are going to lead,” he said.
Ezra Klein believes that this press conference indicates a complete breakdown in the budget discussions:
What the two parties are really doing is trying to position themselves politically to survive the consequences of their failure. We don’t yet know if we’ll get to the point where the market will panic, but it could. We’re very likely to get to the point where we have to stop funding certain government services, which could mean as little as delaying payments to military contractors and hospitals or as much as halting Social Security checks. Either way, the public is likely to ignore the political breakdown until the consequences begin. At that point, both parties are hoping they will have framed the debate such that the electorate’s fury falls squarely on the other’s shoulders. That’s what today’s news conference was about.
The President expanded on the dangers of magical thinking around the debt limit; specifically, that it wasn't that big of a disaster if we defaulted. Transcript follows (via CNN):
Moreover, which bills are we going to decide to pay? These guys have said, "Well, maybe we just pay the interest on -- for bondholders." So are we really going to start paying interest to Chinese who hold treasuries and we're not going to pay folks their Social Security checks or we're not going to pay veterans for their disability checks?
I mean, which bills -- which obligations are we going to say we don't have to pay?
And last point I want to make about this. These are bills that Congress ran up. The money's been spent. The obligations have been made. So this isn't -- this isn't a situation -- I think the American people have to understand this, this is not a situation where, you know, Congress is going to say, "OK, we won't -- we won't buy this car or we won't take this vacation."
They took the vacation. They bought the car. And now they're saying, "Maybe we don't have to pay, or we don't have to pay as fast as we said we were going to," or -- that's not how responsible families act, and we're the greatest nation on Earth and we can't act that way.
So this is urgent and it needs to get settled.
QUESTION: Is August 2nd a yellow light or a red light?
OBAMA: I -- I think people should think of -- look, I'm the president of the United States and I want to make sure that I am not engaging in scare tactics. And I've tried to be responsible and somewhat restrained so that folks don't get spooked.
August 2nd is a very important date and there's no reason why we can't get this done now.
We know what the -- what the options are out there. This is not a technical problem any longer. This is a matter of Congress going ahead and biting the bullet and making some tough decisions.
Because we know what the decisions are. We've identified what spending cuts are possible. We've identified what defense cuts are possible. We've identified what health care cuts are possible. We've identified what loopholes in the tax code can be closed that would also raise revenue.
We've identified what the options are. And the question now is, are we going to step up and get this done?
And, you know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time.
Malia is 13. Sasha's 10.
OBAMA: It is impressive. They don't wait until the night before. They're not pulling all-nighters.
They're -- they're 13 and 10.
OBAMA: You know, Congress can do the same thing.
If you know you've got to do something, just do it.
And -- and -- and I've got to say, I'm very amused when I start hearing comments about, "Well, the president needs to show more leadership on this."
Well, hey, let me tell you something, that after -- right after we finished dealing with the government shutdown -- averting a government shutdown, I called the leaders here together. I said, "We've got to get done -- get this gone."
I put Vice President Biden in charge of a process that, by the way, has made real progress. But these guys have met, worked through all the issues.
I met with every single caucus for an hour to an hour and a half each: Republican senators, Democratic senators, Republican House, Democratic House. I've met with the leaders multiple times.
At a certain point, they need to do their job, you know.
And so this thing, which is just not on the level, where we have meetings and discussions and we're working through process, and when they decide they're not happy with the fact that at some point you've got to make a choice, they just all sit back and say, "Well, you know, the president needs to get this done."
They need to do their job. Now's the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That's why they're called leaders.
And I've already shown that I'm willing to make some decisions that are very tough and will, you know, give my base of voters further reason to give me a hard time.