President Barack Obama blamed Republican lawmakers who “refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise” for the failure of a congressional panel to come up with a deal on cutting the federal deficit.
Obama also said he would veto any move to avoid the automatic spending cuts that are supposed to be imposed as a result of the supercommittee’s failure, staring in 2013.
Democrats were willing to go along to some cuts in Medicare as long as Republicans accepted higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans, Obama said in remarks at the White House.
“They simply will not budge,” he said of the Republicans.
Obama spoke a little more than an hour after the Democratic and Republican co-chairmen of the deficit-reduction committee announced the panel wasn’t able to reach an agreement, setting the stage for $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending, including defense.
The collapse of negotiations also sparked a partisan debate over who should get the blame. Democrats said the refusal of Republicans to let Bush-era tax cuts for top earners expire scuttled chances for a deal. Republicans said the Democratic demand for such tax increases was the major obstacle.
Obama said a combination of spending cuts and higher tax revenue “is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans” and by “experts and economists all across the political spectrum.”
The supercommittee was created in an effort to overcome gridlock in Washington after other high-profile efforts over the past year aimed at reducing the nation’s long-term deficit fell apart.
The lack of a deal threatens to deprive Obama of a vehicle to extend a payroll tax cut and insurance benefits for unemployed Americans, which expire at the end of the year.
Obama vowed to block any increase in taxes for middle- income Americans. He said lawmakers still have a year to “figure it out” and come up with a deficit reduction plan before the automatic spending cuts take effect.
“One way or another we will be trimming the deficit by a total of at least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years,” Obama said, counting the $1 trillion in deficit cuts agreed to earlier by lawmakers.
--With assistance from Catherine Dodge and Brian Faler in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Don Frederick
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