(Updates with Obama remarks beginning in fourth paragraph.)
July 25 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama told a Hispanic group he won’t back deficit-cutting measures that hit government entitlement programs without making sure the wealthy “pay their fair share.”
“Are we a nation that asks only the middle class and the poor to bear the burden?” the president said in Washington at a luncheon speech to the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. “Are we a people who break the promises we made to seniors?”
The president said Congress must move on proposals such as extending a payroll tax cut and creating a fund to pay for infrastructure improvements. Even as lawmakers work on plans to shrink the deficit, the nation can’t afford to slash programs such as education and research that will help the nation’s long- term economic growth.
Obama reiterated his call for a balanced approach to deficit reduction in order to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and said both sides need to reach a compromise, without directly responding to the latest proposals floated by congressional leaders.
“Neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to our debt,” Obama said. “But both parties have a responsibility to come together and solve the problem and make sure that the American people aren’t hurt on this issue.”
The administration and Congress are at a stalemate on raising the federal debt ceiling before Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department says the U.S. will no longer be able to pay all of its obligations. Talks broke down at last week as House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republicans, broke off negotiations with the White House and both sides blamed each other for the impasse.
Obama blamed Republicans for standing in the way of a measure to boost the economy, deal with the deficit and act on revamping U.S. immigration laws. “Compromise is becoming a dirty word” in Washington, Obama said.
The president’s appearance before the largest and fastest growing minority group in the U.S. reflects part of his strategy in gearing up for a 2012 re-election campaign. A White House- hosted Hispanic policy conference on July 14 and a one-day trip to Puerto Rico last month are part of an intense outreach to Hispanic voters.
Hispanic voters supported Obama over Republican John McCain, 67 percent to 31 percent, in 2008, according to exit polls by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center in Washington. There are more than 50 million Hispanics in the U.S.
Obama has urged Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work on revamping the nation’s immigration laws, calling current laws a “broken system.” Still, the push for an immigration overhaul, like many issues, has taken a back seat to the debt ceiling debate.
Changing immigration laws requires bipartisan support, and Obama appealed to Hispanics to help lobby for change one vote at a time.
“I need a dance partner here,” Obama said, referring to congressional Republicans. “I need you to keep building a movement for change, one they can’t stop.”
--With assistance from Julianna Goldman, Kate Andersen Brower and Margaret Talev in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Jim Rubin.
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