President Barack Obama says Congress can find a bipartisan solution to prevent an August 2 government default. But White House officials are highly critical of Friday’s changes in Republican legislation to raise the borrowing limit.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says House Speaker John Boehner’s addition of a constitutional balanced budget amendment to the Republican bill makes it less bipartisan and less likely to pass. "This is not serious. This is dangerous,” he said.
Boehner is proposing to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget. That provision was included in legislation to raise the debt ceiling to make the bill more acceptable to hard-line Republicans, who did not give Boehner the necessary votes to pass it on Thursday.
The House legislation is almost certain to fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The speaker’s proposal would raise the debt ceiling in two stages and reduce deficit spending by at least $917 billion over ten years.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Senate Democrats would start action on their alternative plan, which includes $2.5 trillion in deficit cuts but no changes in government social programs. He called on Republicans to turn away from the ideology of the so-called Tea Party faction of their party.
The top Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Republicans are trying to solve the debt problem, while Democrats are not. “Our Democratic friends here in the Senate have offered no solutions to this crisis that could pass either chamber. Not one,” he said.
At Friday’s White House briefing, Jay Carney said the mounting tension over the looming default has already damaged the U.S. economy.
“There is certainly evidence that the economy has suffered because of the uncertainly created around this debate and the circus atmosphere of our politics around what should be a serious matter,” said the press secretary.
Earlier Friday, President Obama said both the House plan and a proposal by Senate Democrats could be altered to make them acceptable to lawmakers from both parties.
“There are plenty of ways out of this mess but we are almost out of time. We need to reach a compromise by Tuesday so our country will have the ability to pay its bills on time, as we always have,” he said.
The president said both parties are in general agreement about how much spending can be cut to reduce the deficit, and that compromise is possible. But he cautioned that time is running out.