WYSO

Obama, Boehner Trade Blame For Debt Impasse

Jul 26, 2011
Originally published on July 26, 2011 1:03 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Here's one way you can tell that the deadline for the debt ceiling negotiations is uncomfortably close. The cable news channels have started countdown clocks.

LOUISE KELLY: According to the Treasury Department, the U.S. runs out of money to pay its bills one week from today. Tax revenues coming in will not be enough to meet U.S. obligations.

INSKEEP: Some financial experts are asking if there might be a few extra days of breathing room. They've seen unexpectedly strong tax revenues coming in lately.

LOUISE KELLY: But nobody can be sure of that. And nobody doubts the U.S. is getting close to what business euphemistically calls a cash-flow problem.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on last night's dueling speeches.

ARI SHAPIRO: How many different ways can you say, lets get it done? Three weeks ago, the White House said we were in the endgame of debt negotiations. Friday the president's phrase was: We have run out of time. Last night, with a deal still out of reach, Mr. Obama stood in the White House East Room, stared straight into a camera, and said...

BARACK OBAMA: This is no way to run the greatest country on Earth. It's a dangerous game that we've never played before, and we can't afford to play it now.

SHAPIRO: Speaking from Capitol Hill immediately after the president, House speaker John Boehner called it a game of the president's making. Boehner has proposed a bill that would make modest spending cuts and raise the debt ceiling for six months, with more negotiations after that.

JOHN BOEHNER: Obviously I expect that bill can and will pass the Senate, and be sent to the president for signature. And if the president signs it, the crisis atmosphere that he has created will simply disappear.

SHAPIRO: It's not clear why the speaker thinks his bill can pass the Senate, which rejected a version of it last week. But even if it can, that bill will not solve the problem, said the president.

OBAMA: A six month extension of the debt ceiling might not be enough to avoid a credit downgrade and the higher interest rates that all Americans would have to pay as a result.

SHAPIRO: Mr. Obama has thrown his weight behind an alternative plan that Senate majority leader Harry Reid proposed. It would cut more than two and a half trillion dollars in spending and raise the debt ceiling through 2012. Speaker Boehner called those promises of budget cuts phony accounting and Washington gimmicks.

BOEHNER: And the sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today.

SHAPIRO: President Obama argued that the American people are fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word. He urged the public to speak up.

OBAMA: If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of Congress know. If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message.

SHAPIRO: Still, Mr. Obama used that phrase, balanced approach, seven times in his 15- minute speech last night. The word compromise came up six times. Boehner suggested it's all an act.

BOEHNER: The president has often said we need a balanced approach, which in Washington means, we spend more and you pay more.

SHAPIRO: This artillery fire from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other concluded a day that did little to calm anyone's nerves. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell argued on the Senate floor that there is no economic reason to object to a six-month debt ceiling extension.

MITCH MCCONNELL: It's not the beginning of a fiscal year. It's not the beginning of a calendar year. Based on his own words, it's hard to conclude that this request has anything to do with anything other than the president's re-election.

SHAPIRO: And on the Democratic side, New York Senator Chuck Schumer said his party has moved totally in the Republicans' direction.

CHUCK SCHUMER: So that is why the American people are saying that the cause of default and the cause of gridlock are the Republicans in Congress, not the president and not the Democrats in Congress. Because it hasn't been an evenhanded where we give some they give some.

SHAPIRO: Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.