But in the event that an agreement capable of passing Congress is not reached before a looming deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling, Obama said, lawmakers should finishing hammering out a backup plan now being negotiated by the Senate’s Democratic and Republican leaders.
“The problem we have now is we’re in the 11th hour, and we don’t have a lot more time left,” Obama said. “We don’t have any more time to engage in symbolic gestures. We don’t have any more time to posture.” He was referring to a House Republican plan, called the “Cut, Cap and Balance Act,” which aims to slash federal spending, impose a cap on future outlays and amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget — without increasing revenue. “That is not an approach that could pass both chambers, it’s not an approach that I would sign, and it’s not balanced,” Obama said.
Obama spoke after more than 40 Republicans and Democrats attended a morning briefing on the new Senate proposal, which would slice $3.7 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade.
The plan, drafted by a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Six,” has been in the works for months. After struggling to reach consensus and apparently disbanding last week, the group now says it’s nearing agreement on a proposal, which could offer an alternative strategy for pushing an increase in the debt limit through Congress before an Aug. 2 deadline.
“We’ve gone from a Gang of Six to a mob of 50,” exulted Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), as he emerged from the meeting. The proposal, Manchin said, “shows great promise.”
“I will support it. It is a fair compromise,” added Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.). “This is a way forward where we can do the work that we have come here to do.”
Obama called the plan “good news.” He told reporters: “What it says is we’ve got to be serious about reducing discretionary spending both in domestic spending and defense; we’ve got to be serious about tackling health care spending and entitlements in a serious way; and we’ve got to have some additional revenue so that we have an approach in which there is shared sacrifice and everybody is giving up something.”
He said he would urge Senate and House leaders of both parties to be “prepared to start talking turkey” on Wednesday and craft a plan that can meet the Aug. 2 deadline.
Details of the plan were sketchy, and it was not immediately clear how the proposal might be combined with existing debt-limit strategies. As described by its creators, the framework calls for $500 billion in immediate spending cuts as a downpayment on a broader debt-reduction effort that would be carried out largely by existing legislative committees.