Washington Report: Obama Talks Tough on Deficit Reduction

Washington Report: Obama Talks Tough on Deficit Reduction

For weeks Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill have expressed frustration about what they view as President Obama‘s tendency to easily compromise with congressional Republicans during critical negotiations. But in the days before and after the president’s release of the American Jobs Act, and his proposal unveiled on Monday to reduce the federal deficit and pay for his jobs plan, Obama has taken a decidedly tougher stance.

In Rose Garden remarks delivered Monday morning, the president unveiled a plan that calls for an expiration of tax cuts for the wealthy–vowing to veto any bill that does not raise revenues and would place a greater burden on middle class and low income Americans than it would on the nation’s top earners. His plan would raise $800 billion in revenues by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the nation’s top earners, $700 billion from closing “wasteful” tax loopholes and $1.1 trillion from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plan also calls for $248 billion in savings from Medicare, 90% of which would come from reducing overpayments to providers, and $72 billion in Medicaid savings.

In his remarks, the president mocked House Speaker John Boehner‘s speech before the Economic Club in Washington last week, where Boehner stated that tax increases are not an option. Obama lauded Boehner for saying Washington lawmakers cannot take a “my way or the highway” approach to reducing the deficit and growing the economy, adding that’s exactly the approach Boehner was advocating and it was neither smart nor right.

“All I’m saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay our fair share in taxes to contribute to the nation that made our success possible. We shouldn’t get a better deal than ordinary families get,” Obama said. “And I think most wealthy Americans would agree if they knew this would help us grow the economy and deal with the debt that threatens our future.”

Not all Democrats fully support the president’s plan, however. Reps. Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva, who co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, expressed concern that Obama’s proposal would increase costs for Americans who depend on entitlement programs.

“While we support cutting waste, fraud and abuse, we reject any proposal that cuts benefits in Medicare or Medicaid,” said Ellison and Grijalva, in a statement. “We reject false Republican assertions that the solution to our deficit is deep cuts to programs that millions of Americans rely on, and we would hope that President Obama would, too.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver praised the plan.

“The president’s plan will save more than $3 trillion over the next decade, which will restore our nation’s financial security by 2017–where current spending is no longer adding to our debt,” he said. “The plan provides solutions for tax fairness and collective sacrifice, puts Americans back to work, and provides pathways to full time work while extending insurance to those who have been pushed to long term unemployment by the recession. It also strengthens Medicare and Medicaid for future generations while protecting current beneficiaries.”