On Debt Talks, GOP Says Obama is ‘Phoning It In’

By Eliza

Jun 8, 2011 2:57pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:

One day before the fifth round of Biden-led debt ceiling talks are held on the Hill, Republican Senators today increased the pressure on President Obama directly, accusing him of “phoning it in” and calling for the president to be more personally involved in the negotiations to avert a potentially catastrophic default on the nation’s debt.

“Our president is totally disengaged,”  Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., at a press conference today, “He sent his Vice President to negotiate, what maybe once a week, twice a week? We are facing a debt crisis and our president is just phoning it in, I find that very disappointing. I think the American people find that very disappointing.”

In April President Obama appointed his Vice President to lead the bipartisan deficit reduction talks with a group of lawmakers from each of the four caucuses, in order to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit before the August 2nddeadline for action. Since, Mr. Biden has held four meetings with the group – with the fifth being held tomorrow on the Hill.

Senator Johnson said that the issue requires the president’s full attention, “24 hours a day,” suggesting that the level of involvement of the president shows that he doesn’t properly understand how dire the situation is.

“Obviously a president can appoint people to stand in for him and do some negotiations but my problem is that I have not seen this president engaged to the extent he should be based on the severity of the situation,” Johnson said.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, echoed the sentiment adding that as the leader Mr. Obama should get directly involved and “not just shovel it off to someone else.”

On Thursday Vice President Biden will meet with the group at 1 pm on the Hill.  So far negotiations have yet to produce measurable progress, although both sides insist progress is being made.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has said that Republicans will not support any deal to raise the debt ceiling unless it is accompanied by spending cuts at least equal to the amount by which the borrowing limit is raised.

Aft the last meeting of the bipartisan group Vice President Biden said the group is “on pace” to identify at least $1 trillion in cuts. But Democrats oppose any deal that would include cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare.

Democrats say that new tax revenues need to be part of any eventual deal to raise the debt ceiling. Republican leaders in Congress have steadfastly said that the country has “a spending problem” – not a revenue problem – and raising taxes is not an option.

-Sunlen Miller

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