President Obama today ripped Republicans for refusing to accept tax hikes, even for the wealthiest Americans, as part of any deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling beyond $14.29 trillion.
"You can't reduce the deficit to the levels that it needs to be reduced without having some revenue in the mix," the president told a White House news conference after a breakdown in administration negotiations with Congress on reaching a debt-ceiling deal while at the same time reducing soaring deficits.
"And the revenue we're talking about isn't coming out of middle-class families who are struggling. It's coming out of folks who are doing extraordinarily well.
"That's not radical," he said.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has led the chorus of Republicans refusing to agree to any tax increases as part of a deal. Tuesday Boehner shrugged off the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department for raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling as "artificial" and emphasized that "we cannot miss this opportunity" to close the country's growing budget gap.
Debt negotiations between the administration and Congress stalled late last week. Vice President Joe Biden had been meeting for weeks with congressional leaders from both parties in an effort to hash out an agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling before Aug. 2, but those talks broke down once House Majority Whip Eric Cantor left the negotiations. Now the president is trying to get the talks back on track.
"They've made some real progress in narrowing down the differences," the president said today, noting that the two sides have already agreed on a "conceptual framework" with around $1 trillion in spending cuts.
"We've got to seize this moment, and we've got to seize it soon," he said.
In recent days the rhetoric surrounding the debt debate has heated up like the searing Washington summer weather. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republicans bailed on the negotiations because they refused to scrap tax breaks for Big Oil companies or do away with tax loopholes for corporate jets. In turn, the Senate's top Republican Mitch McConnell replied that the GOP simply would not agree to higher taxes as the country continues to try to recover from the recession.
"They're saying that it's essential. We think it's a job-killing step that shouldn't be taken," McConnell said, reiterating the Republicans' stance that any tax hikes are a non-starter.
This week the president has sought to meet with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, starting with Reid and McConnell on Monday. Later today, Senate Democratic leaders are set to head back down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House for another meeting. Time, however, is of the essence.
Treasury has warned that a failure by Congress to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit by Aug. 2 could trigger devastating consequences. Whenever an increase to the limit has been necessary in the past, Congress has never failed to raise the debt ceiling. But to date, with Congress divided and ever more focused on the 2012 elections, lawmakers have shown little sign of coming together on any agreement to raise the red ink limit.
Making matters worse for the White House, the debt stalemate has come as a slew of disappointing reports on the country's struggling economy poured in. Last month employers added only 54,000 new jobs, the slowest month of hiring since last fall, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1 percent.