Obama Insists on ‘Fair Compromise’; No Blank Check, Boehner Says

By Susan Jones | July 26, 2011 | 6:52 AM EDT

President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 25, 2011, on the approaching debt limit deadline. (AP Photo/Jim Watson, Pool)

(CNSNews.com) - In his address to the nation Monday night, President Obama said Americans are fed up with Washington, where "compromise has become a dirty word."

Obama insisted that leaders of both parties much come up with a "fair compromise" on deficit reduction that can pass both chambers and which he can sign.

To Obama, what's "fair" is having "the wealthiest few" pay higher taxes. But Republicans absolutely reject the president's call for higher taxes, just as the president rejects Republicans' call for deep spending cuts.

"Yes, many (Americans) want government to start living within its means," Obama said. "And many are fed up with a system in which the deck seems stacked against middle-class Americans in favor of the wealthiest few." (Obama did not say how the deck is stacked against the middle class.)

House Speaker John Boehner, in his response to Obama's speech, said what the president wants is a "blank check." "That is just not going to happen," Boehner added.

“The solution to this crisis is not complicated: if you’re spending more money than you’re taking in, you need to spend less of it," Boehner said.

Obama urged Americans to "make your voice heard. If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of Congress know.  If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message."

The president directed his remarks to people who "work all day long, many of them scraping by, just to put food on the table. And when they come home at night, bone-tired, and turn on the news, all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington. They see leaders who can’t seem to come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans.  They’re offended by that. And they should be." (Last Friday, Obama mentioned "working stiffs out there, ordinary folks who are struggling every day.")

When Obama speaks of balance  -- he used the phrase 'balanced approach' 7 times in his speech -- he means tax increases on the wealthy.

Speaker of the House John Boehner delivered the Republican response to President Obama's remarks on averting default and dealing with the federal deficit at the Capitol on Monday, July 25, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Boehner had his own explanation of what the president means when he speaks of "balance": “The president has often said we need a 'balanced approach' -- which in Washington means: we spend more, you pay more. Having run a small business, I know those tax increases will destroy jobs," Boehner said.

Boehner also noted that Obama refuses to make fundamental changes to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare: "As the father of two daughters, I know these programs won’t be there for them and their kids unless significant action is taken now."

Twice in his speech, President Obama referred to tea party conservatives, referring to "new members of Congress" with whom he doesn't "see eye to eye on many issues." Later, he mentioned that "History is scattered with the stories of those who held fast to rigid ideologies and refused to listen to those who disagreed. But those are not the Americans we remember."

Obama said he has found "common ground" with Republican leaders before this, and "I believe that enough members of both parties will ultimately put politics aside and help us make progress."

But House Speaker Boehner, in response, said progress in this case means there will be no increase in the debt limit without "significant" spending cuts and reforms.

Boehner noted that the president is asking for the largest debt increase in American history, following the largest spending binge in American history.
“Here's what we got for that spending binge," Boehner said: "A massive health care bill that most Americans never asked for. A 'stimulus' bill that was more effective in producing material for late-night comedians than it was in producing jobs. And a national debt that has gotten so out of hand it has sparked a crisis without precedent in my lifetime or yours."

Boehner agreed with Obama that the U.S. cannot default on its debt obligations.

“And over the last six months, we’ve done our best to convince the president to partner with us to do something dramatic to change the fiscal trajectory of our country -- something that will boost confidence in our economy, renew a measure of faith in our government, and help small businesses get back on track.

“Last week, the House passed such a plan, and with bipartisan support. It’s called the ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ Act. It cuts and caps government spending and paves the way for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, which we believe is the best way to stop Washington from spending money it doesn’t have."

Senate Democrats refused to advance the bill, which Obama had threatened to veto.

Boehner said he made a "sincere effort" to work with the president, but just when agreement seemed close, "the president's demands changed."

Therefore, the House will proceed with another bill, which would raise the debt limit in two stages and tie those increases to real spending cuts. Obama rejects a two-stage process for raising the debt ceiling, saying it will give House Republicans another chance to "refuse to prevent default unless the rest of us accept their cuts-only approach." 

Nevertheless, Boehner said he expects the Republican bill “can and will pass the Senate, and be sent to the president for his signature. If the president signs it, the ‘crisis’ atmosphere he has created will simply disappear. The debt limit will be raised. Spending will be cut by more than one trillion dollars, and a serious, bipartisan committee of the Congress will begin the hard but necessary work of dealing with the tough challenges our nation faces."

Boehner said debt is a menacing symptom of big government: "Break its grip, and we begin to liberate our economy and our future."