President Barack Obama said the congressional supercommittee working to cut the U.S. budget deficit must “bite the bullet” and come up with a plan that combines spending cuts with revenue increases.
“Prudent cuts need to be matched with prudent revenue,” Obama said Sunday at a news conference in Honolulu, where he was hosting a summit of leaders from the Asia-Pacific region. “There are no magic beans that you can toss in the ground and suddenly a bunch of money grows on trees.”
The committee is trying to break an impasse over tax increases in exchange for spending cuts in seeking to cut $1.5 trillion from the nation’s long-term budget deficit. The six Democrats and six Republicans on the panel remain hundreds of billions of dollars apart on the on tax revenue issue with 10 days until the deadline.
Obama said the threat of automatic budget cuts should prod lawmakers “to move off rigid positions and do what was required to help the country.” That hasn’t happened, he said.
He repeated his call for Congress to take a “balanced” approach that won’t make severe cuts in education or programs that aid the poor and elderly. That will require raising revenue, including higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans, he said.
Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the co-chairman of the supercommittee, said Sunday that members might reach an accord on overall numbers for tax revenue increases, leaving it to other congressional panels to work out the details.
Obama said that “every world leader” including those at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit considers continued government spending on education, science and research, “key to long-term economic success.”
“What’s striking whether it’s in Europe or here in Asia, the kinds of fundamental reforms and changes” other countries are making “are so much more significant than what we need to do,” he said. “This doesn’t require radical changes to America or its way of life.”
Congress set up the bipartisan panel in August in legislation that resolved a standoff over raising the federal debt limit. If the panel can reach an agreement, its proposal would be subject to up-or-down votes in the House and Senate. Failure to enact a plan by the end of the year would trigger automatic across-the-board spending cuts of $1.2 trillion in 2013.
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