Just back from a meeting at the White House earlier Wednesday, Republican leaders in Congress warned President Obama that they will not agree to raise taxes in an effort to rein in the country’s rising deficits.
“I think the president heard us loud and clear. If we're going to resolve our differences and do something meaningful, raising taxes will not be part of it,” House Speaker John Boehner said at a brief press conference on Capitol Hill following the meeting.
Boehner described the White House meeting as “a very frank and serious discussion” about the debt crisis, but suggested he has tough standards for the administration to meet in order to sway his support from House Budget chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan to address the deficit.
“All of us understand that this debt that hangs over our head hurts our economy and hurts our ability to create jobs in America,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “In order to move forward, I think Paul Ryan has set the bar in terms of the kind of targets that we need to meet and the kind of serious effort that is required given the debts that we have.”
“I fully support Paul Ryan’s budget, including his efforts on Medicare,” Boehner added. “But I think all of us understand that not meeting our obligations – our debt obligations – is a very bad idea, and nobody wants to take that risk.”
President Obama is set to deliver his speech this afternoon at 1:35 P.M. at George Washington University and is expected to call for a tax increase on the nation’s wealthiest earners, keeping domestic spending low, cutting the Pentagon budget, and finding health care savings in Medicare and Medicaid.
The House Speaker was joined by the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell, his deputy Sen. Jon Kyl, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
“The only concrete proposal in the president’s plan that he’ll roll out today is his plan to raise taxes. And I find that very unacceptable given we’re several days out from Tax Day in this country,” Cantor, R-Va., said. “We don’t believe that raising taxes is the answer here.”
“We’ve put on the table our plan, our vision. We’re going to be voting on the floor this week on the Ryan budget plan, and it lays out how we expect to frankly save the safety net for those who need it in this country, not for those who don’t,” Cantor added. “The president has not come forward with any specifics as far as how we’re going to deal with our debt obligation. I’m looking forward to seeing specifics and to getting serious so we can respond to this debt crisis that we’re facing.”
McConnell warned that the upper chamber of Congress will not agree to the administration’s request to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling unless “significant” action is taken to reduce the red ink.
“The meeting was constructive in the sense that I think everyone at the White House meeting agreed that we need to kind of put the talking points aside and deal with what’s doable as we approach this debt ceiling vote,” McConnell, R-Kentucky, said. “There is bipartisan opposition in the Senate to raising the debt ceiling unless we do something significant about the debt.”
McConnell declined to provide specifics about what “significant” action entails, but said “the definition is what we do is viewed as credible by the markets, by the American people and by foreign countries.”
Following the press conference, Kyl – the No. 2 Senate Republican – told reporters that there was “there is general agreement that we need to have [the debt limit] resolved sometime around the end of June.”
“They have some leeway, but not enough that I think we want to try to push it right to the edge,” Kyl, R-Arizona, said.
Asked if the lawmakers had agreed to the president’s request for bipartisan talks involving four members from each caucus, Kyl replied, “One way or another there will be talks involving Republican and Democrats in the House and Senate and the administration. As to exactly how that will be set up and so on has yet to be determined, but yes we will be talking.”