White House Chief of Staff on Debt Ceiling: No Veto Threat But GOP Can’t Worry About ‘Feelings’

Jun 30, 2011 6:00pm

The White House Chief of Staff refused to issue a veto threat if the debt ceiling compromise doesn't include the president’s demand of tax increases. But Bill Daley did have a strong message for the Republicans: get tough.

Following President Obama’s feisty press conference yesterday Republicans on Capitol Hill didn’t seem any closer to reaching a deal. So I asked Daley if he’s concerned that Obama’s bluntness drove the two sides further apart?

“I find it ironic that at times people who continually attack the president, beat him up on not only on policy, personality, a whole bunch of things, the minute he takes a tone that is a little more direct, and it was not personal, it was direct in that the leaders of Congress in both parties and especially those who are saying that revenue are off the table period in trying to solve this problem, that somehow that’s going to hurt the feelings of people. This is not a time to worry about feelings, this is a time to get results,” Daley told me. 

But despite the tough talk Daley would not threaten a veto if Congress doesn’t meet the president’s demand for a balanced package. Instead the chief of staff said that informal talks continue and he’s “optimistic” that the leaders will do the “people’s business, not the Parties’ business.”

“The president will sign an extension to the debt ceiling that begins to make a serious impact on the deficit, that is balanced, that brings some balance and does not do it strictly on the backs of the American people by changing Medicare…George, I’m not going to say what the final solution will be, but believe me this president feels strongly that there must be sacrifice and both parties have to step forward, the leaders of the parties have to step forward and be willing,” he said. 

Suspicions are swirling that the August 2nd debt ceiling deadline set by the Treasury Department is not firm and that Sec. Geithner could find ways around it if he wanted. Daley said it is “crazy” to risk our financial reputation by squabbling over a day or two – but he did leave wiggle room.

“No one should take any solace in the fact that it may be an hour — a day earlier, or a day later or an hour earlier – this is, to even have that discussion is getting away from and trying to divert away from the fact that we’ve got to solve the budget deficit problem,” he told me. 

After all, Daley said, it was Congress that “passed all the legislation that created the deficit that we are in and they must solve this problem and the president is, has been and continues to be the force of trying to bring people together.”

George Stephanopoulos

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