Obama whacks GOP Cut, Cap, Balance plan

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama took up his bully pulpit today to whack at Republicans’ “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal, while presenting himself to swing voters as an even-handed moderate.

“We don’t have any more time to engage in symbolic gestures, we don’t have any more time to posture,” he said of the House plan, which would cut current spending and curb Congress’ future ability to spend.

But he also offered vague support for a rival plan prepared by several senators, which would cut spending, raise taxes and allow yet more borrowing.

That plan is “broadly consistent” with his preferences, Obama said.

The plan was drafted by the so-called “Gang of Six” — a group also referred to as a “Gang of Seven.” It calls for a near-term budget cut of roughly $500 billion, tax increases of roughly $1 trillion over 10 years, and long-term spending cuts of roughly $2.5 trillion.

However, Obama did not describe any areas of agreement or disagreement with the Senate plan. Instead, he offered generalities, such as “I think what you will see is some significant overlap.” (Obama signals support for ‘balanced’ Gang of Six proposal)

In a press conference immediately afterward, White House spokesman Jay Carney refused to detail the features in the plan that the administration supports or opposes. “The president has been very clear” on what he would want in a budget-deal, he said.

House Speaker John Boehner, however, said on July 13 that the administration’s various budget proposals were as firm as “jell-o.”

Senators are also developing a so-called fallback plan that would require few or no budget cuts, while allowing the President to raise the debt ceiling in stages over the next 18 months. First suggested by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, it has prompted protests from other GOP legislators who want to cut federal spending in 2011 and 2012.

Throughout the day, White House officials slammed the Cut, Cap and Balance plan.

The plan “is an extreme version of a constitutional amendment that would cap government spending and require a two-thirds supermajority to cut tax loopholes or take other steps on revenue,” Jason Furman, the deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council, announced on the White House blog this morning.

In contrast, he wrote, “the President is pushing everyone to come to the table, put politics aside, work through our differences and prove to the American people that we can still do big and difficult, but necessary things.”

Obama’s opposition to Cut, Cap and Balance is not intended to isolate the GOP ‘s budget-cutters, said Carney. “It was not to isolate … it was to urge, cajole, and persuade both parties” to support a deal, he said. (While Democrats slam Cut, Cap, Balance, Ryan’s office fires back)

To advertise his claim of being centrist, Obama is pushing for a “big” deal on the debt ceiling. Under that approach, negotiators from both parties would agree to reduce the 10-year deficit of $12 trillion to $8 trillion, partly through tax increases amounting to $1 trillion.

But that plan would allow the government to spend $8 trillion more in borrowed debt, adding to the existing $14 trillion in debt already owed by the federal government.

To push Republicans to accept this “big” deal and tax-increase, Obama has announced he will not accept short-term increase in the federal government’s debt ceiling, and that monthly Social Security checks might be in jeopardy after Aug. 2.

On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney continued pushing for a tax increase — which he dubbed “balance” — to be included in a “mid-sized” debt-ceiling deal.

“There is the possibility for something short of the biggest deal possible but still something significant that would provide some deficit reduction — some significant deficit reduction, but would also still require balance, would still require give on the part of Republicans.”

On Tuesday, Carney again claimed that Republicans and a majority of Republicans support a tax-increase. “That is really the only way here if we want to do something significant,” but he did not argue that the “fallback option” should include a tax increase.