With the House in seeming chaos, the stock market dropping, and the deadline looming, President Obama on Friday morning demanded that Congress take action to raise the debt ceiling, declaring that “the time for putting party first is over. The time for compromise on behalf of the American people is now.”
Compromise is reachable, he insisted, saying, “There are plenty of ways out of this mess.” But he added ominously, “We are almost out of time.”
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As he did on Monday night, the president called on the public to get more vocal in pressuring their representatives in Congress. After praising an “overwhelming” response to his earlier call, he pleaded for more. “Please, to all the American people, keep it up. If you want to see a bipartisan compromise, a bill that could pass both houses of Congress and that I can sign, let your members of Congress know. Make a phone call. Send an e-mail. Tweet. Keep the pressure on Washington.”
While lamenting what he called “all the intrigue and all the drama that's taking place on Capitol Hill right now,” he still expressed confidence that the crisis will be resolved. “We are now running out of time,” he said. “It's important for everybody to step up and show the leadership that the American people expect.”
The president’s latest warning came amid a backdrop of legislative confusion after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio., was forced on Thursday night to pull back the bill he had crafted as the Republican vehicle to raise the debt ceiling, slash spending, and keep pressure on the president.
The sense of urgency on Friday was further heightened by disappointing news that the economy grew by only 1.3 percent in the second quarter. The White House sees the failure to deal with the debt ceiling as feeding a dangerous uncertainty that weakens economic recovery. Just moments before the president spoke, Austan Goolsbee, his chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers said, “We are at a fragile moment in the world economy and cannot afford to do anything to undermine our recovery at a moment such as this.”
But the biggest thing hanging over the president as he spoke in the Diplomatic Room was the fast-approaching Tuesday deadline. That is the day when the White House said the United States loses the ability to borrow money, making a first-ever national default possible.
And he cast the current drama in the House as getting in the way of meeting that deadline for spending so much time “still trying to pass a bill that a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have already said they won't vote for.” He said Boehner's bill "does not solve the problem. And it has no chance of becoming law."
Instead, he urged House members to focus on legislative vehicles in the Senate. “What's clear now is that any solution to avoid default must be bipartisan,” he said. “It must have the support of both parties that were sent here to represent the American people. Not just one faction. It will have to have the support of both the House and the Senate.”
He said that bills sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., could work. “There are plenty of modifications we can make to either of these plans in order to get them passed through both the House and the Senate and would allow me to sign them into law,” he said.
Compromise, he insisted, is possible.
“Keep in mind, this is not a situation where the two parties are miles apart. We're in rough agreement about how much spending can be cut responsibly as a first step toward reducing our deficit,” he said. “We agree on a process, where the next step is a debate in the coming months on tax reform and entitlement reform.”
He declared himself ready for that debate and willing to accept “some kind of enforcement mechanism to hold us all accountable.”
He warned that the country is at risk of losing its AAA credit rating because of this debate. That would happen, he said, “not because we didn't have the capacity to pay our bills; we do. But because we didn't have a AAA political system to match our AAA credit rating.”
Default, he said grimly, would be “inexcusable,” adding, “There are a lot of crises in the world we can't always predict or avoid -- hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks. This isn't one of those crises.”