President Obama took Republican lawmakers to task during a news conference Wednesday for inflexibly refusing to compromise on taxes as part of a deal to raise the debt limit.
“It would be hard for Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done,” Obama said. “What we’ve seen in negotiations here in Washington is a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on cable news.”
Obama entered the budget talks this week after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., exited negotiations that had been proceeding with Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic congressional leaders, saying they had reached an impasse over administration demands for tax increases (see Cantor Backs out of White House Budget Talks, Citing Tax Impasse).
The Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers are insisting that some tax increases should be part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling above the $14.3 trillion limit, along with the spending cuts insisted upon by Republicans. “Hopefully leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and do the right thing for the American people,” Obama said.
The administration has reportedly advocated various tax increases during budget talks, including eliminating the tax advantages of the LIFO inventory accounting method and getting rid of tax depreciation breaks for corporate jets.
“If you are a wealthy CEO or hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been,” Obama said. “They are lower than they have been since the 1950s, and they can afford it. You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.”
Obama also criticized Republicans for dropping out of the budget negotiations, although he has met this month with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“Call me naïve, but my expectation is that leaders are going to lead.” Obama said.
Obama derided tax breaks for the wealthy, oil companies, and corporate jet owners, and compared them to the spending cuts that were being demanded.
"If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship,” he said. “That means we’ve got to stop funding certain grants for medical research. That means that food safety may be compromised. That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden. Those are the choices we have to make.”
Boehner struck back after hearing Obama’s comments. “The President’s remarks today ignore legislative and economic reality, and demonstrate remarkable irony,” he said in a statement. “His administration has been burying our kids and grandkids in new debt and offered no plan to rein in spending. Republicans have been leading and offering solutions to put the brakes on this spending binge. The President has been AWOL from that debate.”
“The President is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the House,” Boehner added. “The votes simply aren’t there—and they aren’t going to be there, because the American people know tax hikes destroy jobs. They also know Washington has been on a spending binge for many years, and they will only tolerate a debt limit increase if we stop it.”
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