Politics

Obama turns spotlight on Republicans for not being willing to give up ‘sacred cow’

President Barack Obama dug in his heels in support of eliminating certain tax breaks during a press conference Wednesday morning. In doing so, he put the spotlight on Republicans for defending what Democrats consider frivolous tax breaks.

Obama hammered congressional Republicans for not being willing to give up their “sacred cow” and agree to revenue increases when Democrats have expressed a willingness to make tough spending cuts in a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Several times throughout the press conference, the president referred to “corporate jet owners” as a prime example of recipients of the tax breaks Republicans are defending.

“I think it would be hard for Republicans to stand there and say tax breaks for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done,” said Obama. “I don’t think that’s a sustainable position.”

In the past few days, Democrats on the Hill have been visibly nervous that Obama will make concessions to Republicans during private talks about the debt limit. But the president largely put those fears to rest, saying that keeping certain tax breaks would mean cuts to things like college scholarship funds, food safety and vital social programs.

“Those are choices we have to make,” said Obama. “The bottom line is this: Any agreement is going to require tough choices and balanced solutions.”

“It’s only fair to ask oil companies and corporate jet owners to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys,” he added. “I don’t think that’s real radical.”

Obama remained optimistic, however, that Republicans and Democrats would be able to come to an agreement. “I think we can actually bridge our differences in a way that does not hurt the economy right here and right now,” he said. “Nobody wants to see the U.S. default so we’ve got to seize this moment.”

Until now, the president has largely stayed out of negotiations. But bipartisan budget talks, led by Vice President Joe Biden, fell apart last week when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor walked out. Since then, President Obama has entered the negotiations himself, meeting with Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the last week.

But publicly, at least, there has been no significant movement. Republicans continue to insist any talk of tax increases — even on the wealthiest Americans — is a non-starter. On the other hand, Democrats are emphatic that spending cuts must be accompanied by revenue increases.

Obama also spent much of his opening statement calling on Congress to act “right now” to jump-start job creation and facilitate economic recovery. One example, he said, would be for Congress to act on pending trade agreements and put construction workers back to work building bridges and roads.