Obama Chides GOP on Impasse

Obama Chides GOP on Impasse

By Alexis Simendinger - June 29, 2011

WASHINGTON -- President Obama warmed up for an hour Wednesday during his East Room news conference before his guard began to crack. Gone was the civil Obama -- the measured leader who will patiently break bread with legislative peers to arrive at a sensible compromise to raise the government's lid on borrowing -- and in his place was a president who sounded a lot like an exasperated and defensive school principal who can't get pupils to do their work.

"I've got to say, I'm very amused when I start hearing comments about ‘Well, the president needs to show more leadership on this,' " Obama said, amusement perhaps being an inapt term. Congressional Republicans, he complained, have urged him to get more involved in hammering out a debt ceiling deal by August -- all the while repeatedly bolting from Washington on extended breaks.

"They're in one week; they're out one week," the president said of the separate calendars kept by House and Senate leaders. Obama was eager to cast himself as a leader who takes his job seriously enough to be yoked to it, and brave enough to tackle giant headaches: "I've been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. . . . Let's get it done. . . . This is urgent and it needs to get settled."

Having tossed out the script that characterized lawmakers as his hardworking peers, Obama added that his young daughters, Malia and Sasha, routinely show more discipline than he's been seeing in Congress. The 12-year-old and 10-year-old do their homework ahead of deadlines, he explained, and therefore are useful role models.

"Congress can do the same thing," he urged. "If you know you've got to do something, just do it. . . . Now is the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That's why they're called leaders."

The president said he's willing to buck the orthodoxies of his party in order to pump the economy, create jobs and alleviate long-term debt. "I've already shown that I am willing to make decisions that are very tough," he said, "and that will give my base of voters further reasons to give me a hard time. But it's got to be done."

Later Wednesday, Obama met privately with Senate Democratic leaders at the White House to continue sketching out a strategy to bring the parties together to cut the deficit and the debt. Obama pointed to such White House-led meetings as evidence of his aggressive efforts to avert a government shutdown and economic calamity should Congress default on its debts.

During Obama's 67-minute news conference -- his first solo session with the press corps since March 11 -- he castigated GOP critics for being irresponsible with the country's fiscal obligations, for succumbing to a "selfish approach that sometimes politics breeds," and for being drawn to "the expediency of short-term politics."

The president did not publicly outline the contours of any White House bid to resolve the debt-ceiling standoff, except to repeat his willingness to embrace $4 trillion in budget savings over 10 or 12 years, drawn from a mix of savings in domestic spending, including Medicare and defense, as well as higher revenues derived from ending tax benefits enjoyed by corporations and millionaires. Republicans have said they will not accept tax increases.

Asked whether Aug. 2 is an actual drop-dead deadline when the government begins to run out of funds to pay its bills, as the Treasury Department has stated, Obama responded that "August 2 is a very important date." Treasury will next estimate the cash flow situation in July, but said this week that the $14.3 trillion borrowing limit will be reached within a day or two of that date.

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Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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