Obama admonishes Republicans for not agreeing to spending deal

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama chided Republicans Wednesday for not agreeing to a spending deal with him, suggesting that they may be motivated by personal dislike for him, that the latest GOP offer ignores logic and their own priorities, and that the GOP should temper its ideology in light of the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children in Newtown, Conn.

Obama held firm on his push to tax income above $250,000. The top House Republican has offered to raise taxes on income above $1 million.

“There’s a difference in terms of them wanting to preserve tax breaks for folks between $250,000 and $1 million that we just can’t afford,” he said.

Obama also amped up his demand that the GOP agree to raise the nation’s debt-limit to fund another $2 trillion in deficit spending before the 2014 election.

“I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. We’re not going to play the same game that we saw in 2011, which was hugely destructive, hurt our economy,” he insisted.

The Constitution says the debt limit is set by Congress, and GOP advocates say they want to slow the $1 trillion per year increase in that debt, which is now $16.4 trillion.

In 2011, GOP opposition to another debt-ceiling increase forced Obama to accept some curbs on spending.

The president’s press conference at the White House came as the GOP pushed its own budget fallback bill, which would avert tax increases on income under $1 million, scheduled in January by the “fiscal cliff” deals signed in 2010 and 2011.

The GOP’s “Plan B” would extend the 2001 and 2010 tax cuts, but not for Americans who earn more than $1 million each year, and would put off negotiations with Obama until early next year, a plan Obama said “defies logic.”

“Any objective person out there looking would say we put forward a very balanced plan, and it is time to get it done,” he said of his 10-year plan to raise taxes by roughly $1.3 trillion.

The GOP’s opposition to tax increases on income from $250,000 to $1 million “is not a persuasive argument to me,” he said. “It may be that if we provide more information or there’s greater specificity, or we’ve worked through some of their concerns that we can get some movement there.”

He promised to continue conversations with congressional leaders to push his spending offer — which would boost the national debt from $11 trillion in 2008 to $23 trillion in 2022.

“I’m going to reach out to all the leaders involved … and find out what is holding this thing up.”

But he also said that his plan lines up with the GOP’s goal of cutting government, saying he has put forward “spending cuts” of $1 trillion.

GOP legislators and supporters have argued for decades that they want to limit the scale and ambition of government, which they believe becomes harmful to Americans once it goes beyond core tasks.

Even as he claimed to seeking a fair compromise, Obama characterized the GOP plan as hurtful to Americans.

“At some point, you are hurting people in order to give another advantage to folks who don’t need help,” he said.

The GOP’s willingness to “put our economy at risk because you couldn’t bridge that gap [in negotiations], doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Obama also hinted that the GOP’s opposition to his plans may be powered by a personal dislike of Obama.

“They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package; that we will have stabilized it for 10 years,” he said. “That is a significant achievement for them. They should be proud of it. But they keep on finding ways to say no as opposed to finding ways to say yes.”

“And I don’t know how much of that just has to do with, you know, it is very hard for them to say yes to me,” he said.

“I’m often reminded when I speak to the Republican leadership that the majority of their caucus’s membership come from districts that I lost,” he said. “And, you know, cooperating with me may make them vulnerable.”

“I’m not try to rub their face in anything,” he said, shortly after he touted the GOP’s agreement to submit to his demand that they they accept a increase in tax rates for some Americans.

“But goodness, if this past week has done anything, it should give us perspective,” he said in one of three references to the Newtown, Conn., massacre of 20 children and six unarmed teachers.

After “one of the worst tragedies in our memory, the country deserves folks to be willing to compromise on behalf of the greater good and not tangle themselves up in a whole bunch of ideological positions that don’t make much sense,” he said.

A compromise would “allow ourselves time to focus on things like preventing the tragedy in Newtown from happening again,” he claimed.

Of GOP legislators, he said, “At some point, you know, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters and think about what’s best for the country,” he claimed.

“The campaign is over, let’s see if we can do what right for the country, at least for the next month,” he said.

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