At the 37th and the last press conference of his first term, which officially ends in one week when he'll take the oath of office for his second and final term, President Barack Obama covered a lot of ground, but his main message, which he clarified again last week, is for Congress to do its job by not being so dysfunctional as to either shut down government operations or default on paying its bills.
Act responsibly, Obama tells Congress
Last week, President Obama had these words for Congressional Republicans who are threatening to shut down the government if they don't get the spending cuts they want or push the nation into default on paying its debts, spending Congress has already authorized.
“There are only two options to deal with the debt limit: Congress can pay its bills or it can fail to act and put the nation into default. When Congressional Republicans played politics with this issue last time, putting us at the edge of default, it was a blow to our economic recovery, causing our nation’s credit rating to be downgraded. The President and the American people won’t tolerate Congressional Republicans holding the American economy hostage again simply so they can force disastrous cuts to Medicare and other programs the middle class depend on while protecting the wealthy. Congress needs to do its job", he said, emphasizing that it needs to act responsibly.
GOP ready to default or shut down government
News out Monday morning is that House Republicans are seriously entertaining dramatic steps, including default or shutting down the government, to force President Obama to cut spending by the end of March, Politico reported. GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts. House Speaker John Boehner ‘may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,’ a top GOP leadership adviser told Politico. "We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting."
Republicans, who lost the presidential race and who remain in control of the House despite Democrats securing a million more votes in House races this last election cycle than Republicans, may be misreading the mood of the country again as the last General Election showed. Most everyone knew the tax drama labeled the fiscal cliff would end with the rich paying more taxes, no one is sure how the coming fights will unfold, Politico wrote. On Monday, reports are that Speaker Boehner will discuss his preliminary thinking on a spending strategy.
GOP leaders are authentically at a loss on how to control members who don’t respond to the normal incentives of wanting to help party leaders or of avoiding situations—like default—that could be public relations nightmares. Colin Powell, who claims he's still a Republican, says the GOP has an identity problem and needs to figure itself out.
In a meeting between House GOP leadership and outside campaign groups at the Republican National Committee last Thursday, Speraker Boehner’s chief of staff discussed the possibility of increasing the debt limit for only one to three months. The aide, Mike Sommers, said any option—including that one—is contingent on getting corresponding cuts or reforms in return. If the White House wants to offer cuts and reforms equal to one month, that’s what they get, another staffer told Politico, adding, if they agree to more cuts and reforms, they get a greater increase. G
It's reported that 90 percent of GOP officials are prepared to allow the sequester cuts to take effect. The shape of this deal will include a proposal to cushion the effect of default by passing legislation beforehand that prioritizes the order that government bills will be paid in the event the debt limit is not increased.
Obama at the White House: Pay bills Congress has already wracked up
"We are poised for a good year if we make smart decisions and sound investments," President Obama said in his opening remarks late Monday morning. He emphasized his plan is to grow the economy, broaden opportunity for the middle class and shrink deficits in a responsible way.
He reminded reporters and others that $2.5 trillion has already been saved over the last two years, which doesn't include money saved from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He reiterated that his deficit reduction goal is $4 trillion.
As he's said previously, most especially on the campaign trail last year, deficit reduction through spending alone isn't fair or balanced. America spends less, as a share of our economy, than it has in a generation.
The president again stated that he's open to making modest adjustments to programs like Medicare, but it also includes generating more revenue through closing loopholes. "We can solve the deficit issue without sacrificing investments in education that will help us grow," he added.
He said the American people agree with him, which his election is testament to, that it's not fair to ask seniors to pay more or for scientists to shut down research so multi-millionaires can pay less in taxes than a secretary.
He stressed that American taxpayers "want us to get our books in order in a balanced way ... that's what I want, that's what I've proposed" but doing it in a responsible way instead of through politics.
"Let me be clear about this," he said, "the debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending; raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending, it pays for spending congress has already committed to. These are bills that have already been wracked up, we need to pay them."
The question he asked, which he said investors around the world will ask is, "Is America a safe bet?" Defaulting on the debt, he said, is a "self-inflicted wound on the economy, it will slow down growth, it could tip us into another recession and will increase our deficit."
"To even entertain the idea is irresponsible, it's absurd," he said, adding that even Speaker Boehner, speaking about it last year, said it would be a financial disaster. He called on the GOP to act responsibly and pay its bills or act irresponsible and not pay its bills.
"The full faith and credit of America is not a bargaining chip." He reminded reporters and other listening or watching that America's credit rating was downgraded the last time Congress did what it appears Congressional Republicans are ready to do again. The fiasco, he said, added to the deficit, and partisan brinkmanship over paying bills is the wrong strategy going forward.
Acting responsibly, he said, will give the world the certainty that our economy is second to none. His focus will be to create more jobs, boost wages, achieve energy independence, push for immigration reform, offer the best education possible to students and protect innocents from the horrors of gun violence.
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