President Barack Obama today used the debt ceiling debate to again call for tax increases, even though his Hill allies have backed away from the deal-breaking demand.
Obama made the call today at the annual convention held by the National Council of La Raza, a left-of-center Hispanic advocacy group.
“We can’t just close our deficit by cutting spending … if all we do is cut, seniors will have to pay more for health care, students will have to pay more for college … we’d have to stop much of the clean-energy research,” he declared to cheers from the audience. “Not only is it not fair … it doesn’t make sense.”
The debt-ceiling negotiations have moved from the White House to Congress following Obama’s abortive effort last Thursday to win another $400 billion in tax increases, on top of an earlier conditional deal to raise $800 billion in taxes on wealthy people.
House Speaker John Boehner subsequently developed his own debt-ceiling bill; Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid is also developing a parallel measure. Both are expected to be made public today.
Over the weekend, Obama’s highest priority seemed to shift from a tax increase to increasing the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion in one jump. (La Raza carrying Obama’s agua)
That $2.4 trillion would enable the government to keep spending until sometime after the 2012 election.
GOP leaders, including Boehner, say they prefer a smaller, short-term increase, partly because that would help them win support from caucus members who oppose more government overspending.
On Monday Republicans emphasized their desire to cut government spending, rather than their preference for a stopgap measure. Obama “wants a $2.4T blank check to get him through the next election [without] cuts that exceed the hike. This is indefensible,” the National Republican Congressional Committee wrote in a statement.
Obama’s speech to La Raza focused primarily on his support for the Hispanic advocacy group, rather than on the debt-ceiling deal.
Obama needs Hispanic advocates’ help to register millions of Hispanics to vote in time for the November 2012 election. Speaking today, the president said, “We need a movement that bridges party lines, that unites business and labor and faith communities and law enforcement communities, and all who know that America cannot continue operating with a broken immigration system. And I will be there every step of the way.”
To bolster his support among Hispanics, Obama cited a list of domestic programs that he said have aided them, including the stimulus, new health care spending programs, education grants, and regulation of payday lenders. (Obama looks to kick debt ceiling can just past 2012 election)
He blamed Republicans, and the nation’s “political wind” for Congress’ refusal to adopt a conditional amnesty, which he dubbed “comprehensive immigration reform.”
The crowd cheered “Yes you can!” when Obama said he could not change the current immigration laws without Congress.
“I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know very well the real pain and heartbreak that deportations cause,” he said. “I promise you, we are responding to your concerns and working every day to make sure we are enforcing flawed laws in the most humane and best possible way.”