Congress Reacts To Obama's Presser

Jun 29, 2011
Originally published on June 29, 2011 5:50 pm
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SIEGEL: Much of what President Obama said today was directed toward lawmakers, so here's NPR's Andrea Seabrook with congressional reaction to the president's press conference.

ANDREA SEABROOK: At about the same time, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was talking to reporters in the Capitol about what Mr. Obama would say.

SIEGEL: We expect that he will be pushing for tax increases as a condition to get some kind of deficit reduction package. Our view is a good first step is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

SEABROOK: All 47 Senate Republicans are sponsoring a constitutional amendment forcing the U.S. government to live under balanced budgets. Of course, amending the Constitution is a complicated and long process, so today's proposal doesn't really address the current fiscal crisis, though Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions defended it.

SIEGEL: This is not an academic matter. I think it's another example of the Republican leadership stepping forward with real proposals that would change the course that we're now on.

SIEGEL: I want the Republicans to put their votes where their mouth is.

SEABROOK: Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski says she's frustrated with Republicans pretending to address the crisis. She agrees with President Obama's words today, that Democrats have cut a lot of programs they'd rather not and it's time for Republicans to compromise on some of their pet issues.

SIEGEL: They want to close Social Security offices. I want to close loopholes. They want to get rid of teachers. I want to get rid of sacred cows.

SEABROOK: Mr. Obama said Republican leaders walked out on talks last week because Democrats want to do away with tax breaks for big companies and the wealthy. For example, the oil and gas companies industry and people who own corporate jets. Republicans, like Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, reject that and say getting rid of tax subsidies is the same as raising taxes.

SIEGEL: Their answer to everything in this administration and on the other side of the floor, a large measure of them, is to increase taxes for everything.

SEABROOK: Hatch did say he's willing to consider ending some tax benefits, but not as a part of the current negotiations on cutting the deficit and raising the debt ceiling.

SIEGEL: And if we're going to do that, we ought to reserve discussions on tax expenditures so that we can utilize those tax expenditures in the overall resolution of our problems.

SEABROOK: So where does that leave negotiations? Well, Democrats, like Maryland's Mikulski, continue to hammer on Republicans for not doing their part to compromise.

SIEGEL: Hey, what happened to the party of Lincoln? Hey, what happened to the party of Teddy Roosevelt? Hey, what happened to the party of Ronald Reagan, when people could come together and find a sensible center to solve the nation's problems?

SEABROOK: And Republicans punch back that Democrats are addicted to government spending. In fact, Hatch today got in his own whack at the president.

SIEGEL: Look, I like him personally. There's no personal animosity there, but he's just not doing the job. And frankly, there's good reason because he's got to satisfy a whole bunch of special interest groups that live off the federal government.

SEABROOK: Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.