In his first news conference in over 15 weeks, President Obama confronted congressional Republicans for failing to strike a deal on raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Speaking in the East Room of the White House, the President took questions from reporters for over an hour. Using some harsh words, he warned lawmakers that if they can't reach a deal by the end of the week, they should cancel congressional vacations.
The President also blasted Republicans for refusing to consider raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans as part of any deal. He said, "The tax cuts I'm proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. I think it's only fair to ask an oil company or corporate jet owner who has done so well to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys. I don't think that's real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that. "
Nancy Pelosi, thrilled by the President's message on the repeal of tax breaks for the wealthy, offered the following statement. She said, "Bravo! This is the fight House Democrats have been making for the last six months under the Republican Majority as they move to end Medicare and continue tax breaks for big oil." But Republicans are not showing signs of backing down in their opposition to raising taxes. John Boehner slammed the President's news conference and accused him of being "AWOL" from the debate. In a statement, Boehner said "the President is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the House. The votes simply aren't there and they aren't going to be there, because the American people know tax hikes destroy jobs."
Meanwhile, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad is announcing that Democrats have reached an agreement on a budget plan. Conrad says the proposal will have greater debt and deficit reduction than the plan recommended by the President's bipartisan Bowles- Simpson Commission. After his news conference, President Obama met with Democrats at the White House yesterday. They are expected to unveil their proposal as early as next week.