Obama urges parties to reach deal to avert default

July 30, 2011 - 5:44 AM
Debt Ceiling

A sign for the Social Security Administration is seen in Los Angeles, Friday, July 29, 2011. If the debt ceiling currently being debated in Congress does not rise, the government would need to choose what to pay and what not, including benefits like Social Security. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Claiming that the two parties aren't that far apart, President Barack Obama is urging Democratic and Republican lawmakers to reach a deal quickly to keep the government from defaulting on payments to veterans, Social Security recipients and others.

"There is very little time" he said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.

The Republican-controlled House on Friday passed a bill aimed at avoiding a debt default, voting 218-210 almost entirely along party lines.

It pairs an immediate $900 billion increase in U.S. borrowing authority, needed for the government to keep paying all its bills, with $917 billion in federal spending cuts. But Democrats strongly oppose a provision that says Congress must approve a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution and send it to the states for ratification before any additional increases in borrowing authority are granted.

In the Republican radio address, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl said it's important for the country to avoid debt default, but said Democrats need to work more closely with Republicans.

"Republicans have tried to work with Democrats to avoid this result and put our country on a better path, but we need them to work with us," Kyl said.

"Unfortunately, after weeks of negotiations, it became clear that Democrats in Washington did not view this crisis as an opportunity to rein in spending," he said. "Instead, they saw it as an opportunity to impose huge tax increases on American families and small businesses."

Obama insists that borrowing authority extend through 2013, beyond next year's presidential campaign.

The Democratic-controlled Senate, with help from some Republicans, quickly rejected the House bill on Friday. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had an alternative measure to cut spending by $2.4 trillion and raise the debt limit by an equal amount, enough to meet Obama's demand that there not be another vote on government borrowing next year.

That defeat could set the stage for weekend negotiations on a compromise measure suitable to both houses of Congress. Obama said that compromise is needed by a Tuesday deadline — or else the government will begin running out of money.

"Look, the parties are not that far apart here," Obama said Saturday, claiming "rough agreement" between them on spending cuts and a process for overhauling the tax code and costly federal benefit programs. "There are plenty ways out of this mess. But there is very little time."

"We need to reach a compromise by Tuesday so that our country will have the ability to pay its bills on time, bills like Social Security checks, veterans' benefits and contracts we've signed with thousands of American businesses," Obama said.

The president also offered praise for congressional Democrats and some Senate Republicans who "have been listening and have shown themselves willing to make compromises to solve this crisis." He singled out House Republicans in calling on all lawmakers to show "the same kind of responsibility that the American people show every day" by paying their bills and keeping their houses in order.

"The time for putting party first is over," Obama said. "The time for compromise on behalf of the American people is now."

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Online:

Obama address: www.whitehouse.gov

GOP address: www.youtube.com/gopweeklyaddress