President Obama is dead-set on reaching a budget deal before the December 31 deadline. Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) told Andrea Mitchell Tuesday that he met with the president. “He said, ‘Don’t pack up your bags,’” Cummings said. “In other words, he’s determined to get this deal done and get it done before the end of the year.”
Obama has been pushing for extending the Bush tax cuts for Americans making less than $250,000 a year–and letting the tax cuts expire for the nation’s wealthiest. That added revenue is a key component of Obama’s plan for a fiscal compromise. He met with small-business owners Tuesday and is scheduled to meet Wednesday with middle-class Americans who, the White House says, would be hurt if the tax cuts were allowed to expire. Obama will be spending Friday in a Hatfield, Pennsylvania, manufacturing facility to make his case to workers.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the president’s approach as ineffectual, calling it an attempt to “drum up support for his own personal approach to the short- and long-term fiscal challenges we face.” “In other words, rather than sitting down with lawmakers of both parties and working out an agreement, he’s back on the campaign trail, presumably with the same talking points we’re quite familiar with,” McConnell said.
Cummings told Andrea Mitchell that Obama is “very much engaged” and understands that a fiscal deal would have to include revenue as well as “some very targeted cuts.”
The question of how far Democrats are willing to go in terms of spending cuts remains. Cummings told Mitchell, “I think we have to look at Medicare, find out where savings can be had,” but cautioned against changing the program’s structure in the ways Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan suggested before the election. Cummings said Social Security should be “set on the side,” echoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s claim Tuesday that the program would not be part of any deal.
Republicans have shown some flexibility in recent days on revenue increases, as Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Congressmen Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Peter King (R-NY) publicly distanced themselves from a pledge they had signed with Grover Norquist’s group Americans for Tax Reform promising to never support a tax increase as long as they hold elected office.
Cummings welcomed the week’s developments. “I want our Republican friends to get off this thing talking about no increase in tax rates, while at the same time wanting those who are most vulnerable in our society to have their benefits lessened.”