Obama Optimistic ‘Grand Bargain’ on Debt Can Be Done

Posted July 20th, 2011 at 2:10 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama is not giving up hope for a “grand bargain” to raise the country's borrowing limit while also slashing the nation's debt.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday there was still time for Republican and Democrats to reach an agreement, saying it “just requires a willingness to be reasonable.”

The U.S. is facing an August 2 deadline to raise the country's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or start defaulting on some of its obligations for the first time in history. Efforts to forge an agreement have stalled because of stark disagreements over raising revenues and making cuts to social safety net programs.

Carney said Mr. Obama planned to meet with Democratic party leaders at the White House later Wednesday to again push for a balanced approach.

Carney also said the president had a “constructive” phone call late Tuesday with Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives Tuesday approved a plan to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for cutting more than $100 billion from the federal budget next year. The so-called Cut, Cap and Balance Act would also require a constitutional mandate for a balanced federal budget.

Mr. Obama has said he will not support the measure.

On Tuesday, President Obama expressed enthusiasm for a plan from a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Group of Six.”

That plan calls for an immediate $500 billion in spending cuts as part of a larger effort to slash spending by $4 trillion over the next decade.

It also would make significant changes to major social welfare programs and raise $1 trillion in tax revenues over 10 years.

If lawmakers can not agree on a deal to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2, the U.S. could potentially default on its loans and face a possible decreased credit rating.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to hold talks with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on McConnell's proposal to give the president sole authority to raise the debt limit by $2.5 trillion in three installments over the next year. Mr. Obama has characterized that plan as a fail-safe.

The White House has called the McConnell plan a fall-back option.