WHITE HOUSE —
President Barack Obama says he is prepared to do “tough things” to reach a deal with Republicans on deficit reduction. The president said Wednesday there is no reason for the talks to fail.
Obama told reporters he is optimistic that he and the Republicans can agree on cutting the U.S. deficit, to prevent deep spending cuts and large tax increases from taking effect January 1.
The president said he has met the Republican side more than halfway, and is ready to make more concessions if necessary.
“In order to arrive at a compromise, I am prepared to do some very tough things - some things that some Democrats do not want to see, and probably there are a few Republicans who do not want to see [this] either,” Obama said.
Obama said his latest proposal and the latest offer from House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner are “pretty close.”
“What separates us is probably a few hundred billion dollars. The idea that we would put our economy at risk because you cannot bridge that gap does not make a lot of sense. So I am going to continue to talk to the Speaker and the other leaders up in Congress, but ultimately, they have got to do their job,” the president said.
A short time later, Boehner sharply criticized the president for opposing a counteroffer which the Republican-led House is expected to pass on Thursday.
“Then the president will have a decision to make. He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history,” Boehner said.
The White House has said Obama would veto Boehner’s proposal, which would extend tax breaks for Americans making less than $1 million a year. The president’s latest proposal would raise taxes on those making more than $400,000 annually.
Thomas Mann, senior analyst at Washington’s Brookings Institution, says the main obstacle to a deal may not be Boehner, but the most conservative Republicans in the House.
“A majority of Republicans will probably vote no, and the question is whether Boehner is prepared to reach an agreement and pass the bill without a majority of his own party members,” Mann said.
Obama said again he will not negotiate the nation’s debt ceiling as part of these talks. The U.S. government is approaching the limit on the amount of money it can borrow legally.