Debt-ceiling negotiations: With the sky falling, is a big-picture deal do-able?
We've known for months how close we are to hitting the federal government's debt ceiling. The only remaining mystery is how the crisis will be resolved. Unfortunately, the headline on our board's July 3 editorial -- "Stop playing chicken with the debt ceiling. The impasse in Congress is disturbing. It's time for Republicans and Democrats to move out of their ideological corners and cut a deal" -- is still appropriate and timely now, nine days later.
President Obama has proposed a plan to cut $4-trillion from the federal deficits over the next 10 years. His plan includes raising $1 trillion from increased taxes, which Republicans oppose. But the president also faces antagonism from liberal Democrats, who are against his proposed cuts in entitlement programs.
During Monday morning's news conference, he vowed not to approve any stopgap measures, saying, "I will not sign a 30-day, or 60-day, or 90-day extension. This is the United States of America. And, you know, we don't manage our affairs in three-month increments."
Time is decidedly against any compromise at this point. July 22 is recognized as the last date by which an agreement can be made that would still give Congress time to write, analyze and pass it.
He has a tough road ahead, with partisan reactions to the debt crisis illuminating how far legislators must come, and soon.
Jennifer Rubin, author of the "Right Turn" opinion section of the Washington Post, has a clear and scathing interpretation of the news conference:
To summarize: He won't tell us his specific position on any issue; he is willing to talk tough to his party on entitlement reforms but not taxes; he wants a big deal, but didn't insist, as he had in the past, that it must take us through the 2012 election; and we all need to work together. Did I mention he want us all to work together? You get the drift.
At a very fundamental level, persisting in a crucial negotiation without telling the American people what the White House position is with any precision on any issue is unseemly. There is no real means of determining what is going on and, consequently, of holding anyone accountable for the results or lack thereof. What is he willing to do? On what points is he challenging his party? He says to read the news. The press swoons -- we got it right! But which reports are correct: the ones that say he backtracked on entitlement reform, or the ones that say he is larding up the deal with more taxes?
Meanwhile, the Rev. Al Sharpton, writing for the Huffington Post, sees Republicans' refusal to compromise as part of their plan to take down Obama, even if they hurt the country while doing so. Here's his take:
Instead of working towards a compromise as the president has been diligently pushing for, Republican Congressional leaders would rather leave the American people out to dry while they continue to protect the rich. It's a tired tactic they have utilized for decades, and it's beyond time we call them out for their hypocrisy, their aversion for the working-class and poor, their blatant support for the wealthy and their desire to risk anything in order to attack the president -- including our nation's future.
The reality is, these individuals will do anything to oppose and disparage this president, even if that means holding the rest of the nation hostage. In an effort to 'see him fail', Republicans continue to prove that they will allow us to default on our debt, eliminate fundamental programs or anything else that hurts the American people.
In his Opinion L.A .blog post, Paul Whitefield looks at the big picture with an idealism that rarely comes to pass in American politics:
Americans from both parties, and of no party, are sick and tired of partisan gridlock and baby steps.
So go ahead, Mr. President: Let's overhaul Social Security and Medicare. Let's fix the tax system. Let's quit spending insane billions on defense. Let's stop farm subsidies that enrich people for growing the wrong crops, or no crops at all.
We need jobs. We need to close the gap between rich and poor. We need to make sure that people who get sick can get medical care. We need immigration reform. We need the government to quit spending like a drunken sailor.
Most of all, we need a president who will lead -– and we need people in Congress who will lead with him.
So c'mon, Mr. President, and Mr. Speaker, and all you special-interest types and you "tea party" types and you liberal types: Put up or shut up.
Let's be this century's Greatest Generation.
Photo: President Obama holds a news conference at the White House on Monday to discuss the ongoing budget and debit-limit negotiations with congressional Republicans and Democrats. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images