March 3rd, 2013
10:05 AM ET
1 year ago

Obama worked the phones, adviser says

(CNN) - One day after ordering $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to go into effect, President Barack Obama was on the phone with members of both parties Saturday, trying to find the "bipartisan compromise that we need to get out of this," said Gene Sperling, the president's senior economic aide.

"He's reaching out to Democrats who understand we have to make serious progress on long-term entitlement reform, and Republicans who realize if we have that type of entitlement reform, they'd be willing to have tax reform that raises revenues to lower the deficit," Sperling said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

As the hours ticked down to Friday's deadline to reach a deal that would avoid the cuts, officials in both parties acknowledged there was little to no talking going on between Congress and the White House on ways to avert the sequester.

Republicans chided Obama for holding a last-minute meeting at the White House on Friday morning, less than 12 hours before the president signed the cuts into place.

Each side faulted the other for not compromising on a deficit-reduction deal. Obama and Democrats wanted a deal that included tax revenue, while Republicans said taxes are off the table. Members of the GOP called for more targeted spending cuts and entitlement reform instead.

While Obama made calls to members of both parties on Saturday, the conversations came just one day after he placed blame squarely on Republicans.

"Republicans have made a choice that - maintaining an ironclad rule that we will not accept an extra dime’s worth of revenue - makes it very difficult for us to get any larger comprehensive deal. And that's a choice they're making," he said during a press conference in the White House press briefing room Friday.

Sperling, echoing comments from the president's Friday press conference, said Republicans have entrenched themselves in the fight and refuse to compromise.

"What's keeping us from working together is the Republicans taking this absolutist position that all future deficit reduction must come from the middle class, from seniors, from children, from national security," he said.

Pressed by CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley to reveal the names of lawmakers Obama called on Saturday, Sperling said, "We're not just trying to make those calls to read out the names."

"He's making those calls to see where there might be a coalition of the willing, a caucus for common sense, and trying to build trust, so he's going to be having a lot more conversations like that," Sperling said. He did indicate, however, the president was not calling the same congressional leaders he had at the White House on Friday.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he doubts Obama will have much luck finding a Senate Republican to go along with any tax increases.

“The president is free to call whoever he chooses to. He doesn't have to go through the speaker and myself to talk to our members, and I fully expect him to do that,” McConnell said on “State of the Union.” “So far I haven't heard a single Senate Republican say they'd be willing to raise a dime in taxes to turn off the sequester.”

The Kentucky Republican also said those cuts may ultimately be amended, but they'll stay in place, no matter what.

"I'm absolutely confident we're going to reduce spending the amount of money we promised the American people we would in a law the president signed a year and a half ago," McConnell. "We said we're open to discussing how to reconfigure those spending reductions without raising taxes."


Filed under: Debt • Deficit • Gene Sperling • President Obama • State of the Union
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Reality Check

    I keep forgetting that the GOP need their collective hand held in order to get anything done. "BooHoo, big bad 'bama won't talk to us to tell us the things we already know so we are just going to sit here and do nothing." It is either that or this was the goal all along for the GOP which is consistent with their tea party agenda - cut government spending, check; make Obama look bad, check.

    March 3, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Royal Flush

    Everyone agrees spending needs to be cut. When it finally happens everyone then says it's a disaster and should not have happened. How are we ever going to get our fiscal house in order?

    March 3, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  3. mikle

    He is the worst president ever. Bla blaa bla and tell american people lie and empty promises

    March 3, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. disgustedvet

    Baa-Baa-Baa. Bleating sheep for Obama . He is our "shepherd " and will lead us to greener pastures . Baa-baa-baa.

    March 3, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  5. VEW2012

    Plain and simple the far right needs to be eliminated in the next election. It is sad the only ones they represent are the rich and the greedy. Closing tax loopholes and subsidies for rich corporations is not raising taxes or finding new revenue.... it is just simply cutting waste and unnecessary cost.

    March 3, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. Name lynn

    People needs to stop lying on the president, hes havent sign nothing yet. the media an news cast needs to stop it. whats wrong with these people.

    March 3, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  7. They call me joe.....

    I am an American. The Republicans do not represent me. They need to stop saying its what America wants. America voted for Obama. Not the other way around.

    March 3, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  8. NameFrank Deery

    Gee, Obama is finally getting involved!
    Worst President since Carter, and Obama is also saddled with "Jimmy's" Iran.

    We could have fixed this spending cut mess
    quickly had Romney won.

    March 3, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. abmri60

    And now John Kerry pledged $ 450 million to Egypt to support its faltering economy.
    Keep the money in the USA, our own economy is faltering.....

    March 3, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. Hank E Pankey

    While it is ultimately obamas responsibility to 'lead', congress must be willing to be led.
    There is plenty of blame to go around, yet that ignores the issue of finding a solution -which is where the focus shud b.
    This is no different than 2 children saying 'he started it' & 'im not talking 2 her till she apologizes'.
    We can likely all agree that we've had enuf of the drama. These incompetant fools were elected to lead, not bicker over PERSONAL political beliefs.
    An ez solution would be to sequester (ironic) obama & congress until they can play nice & actually move the country forward (again, ironic). My children do a far superior job of compramising.
    If I repeatedly fail to do my job I get fired. Why then do we keep these self-obsessed narcissists in power? -among others, Im looking @u Ohio

    March 3, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. eddhur

    he should have been trying that all the time instead of trying to bully his way to the congress

    March 3, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. oldvet10

    There is enough blame to cover both sides. Close Loop holes please but include the breeding tax credit, EIC AND the giveaways to Oil and Agri-Business

    March 3, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  13. cbonetto

    So I guess Hawaii and golf with Tiger were more important than working this mess out -– the president's idea of rolling up his sleeves is to call everyone in 17 hours before the mandates kicked in - This guy should be kicked out of office

    March 3, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  14. gajb

    You don't get out of debt by increasing spending. Significant cuts can be made and there are plenty of areas that can be accomplished without unduly impacting our population. Increasing spending only drives us further into a fiscal hole.

    March 3, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. rickp530

    There is a simple way for the United States to get out of debt. Legalize pot and control it as alcohol is controlled and apply all the profits towards the deficit.

    March 3, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  16. Jim Berogin

    I'm neither a republican nor democrat, I vote for the best guy whom I think will have the best leadership as president. I love my country and want nothing but the best for it's people and government. Let's get it together guys.

    March 3, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. Ed

    Obama needs to play more golf.

    March 3, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  18. Robin Jones

    President Obama got overconfident in his ability to badger the Republicans into more tax revenue. Had he kept up his end of the budget deal and made some real cuts in return for the last tax increase he talked them into, he might have had a chance. As it stands now, he's paying the price for starting the whole sequester business. Both parties are now covered in the muck they've created.

    March 3, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. John Schwartze

    I don't get it, seriously. The sequester was the president's idea. I remember him on TV in 2011 talking about it. Now he got his idea implemented. Why so glum now ? If it's so bad why did you suggest it in the first place ?

    March 3, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  20. HL

    What a joke. Makes an issue of why he can't stop Mitch and John for getting on a plane instead of negotiating, but spent the week out of Washington instead of negotiating a deal. Hypocrite in chief. What a leader.

    March 3, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. Getoverit

    Liberal damage control is in full swing here today:
    "Uh-oh, the president blew it, what do we do? We can't hold him responsible because all of our past rhetoric and talking points will be rendered moot. Hhmmm.... I know, lets blame the Republicans for agreeing with Obama! Yeah, that's it. It's the Republicans fault for NOT obstructing the sequester. Whew! Wasn't sure if we could spin this one, but we're good now.

    March 3, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  22. FinnGoDo

    Please. Most republicans didn't even know what the word rhetoric meant before Obama became president, and now they just can't stop using it. So hey...at least you'll have learned something in 8 years.

    March 3, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  23. Joe

    Myth # 5 – This is a Republican Issue – False Obama added revenue to the deal in the 11th hour. This deal was about spending cuts, tax reform is to come later. So look at it this way. Obama would rather raise revenue right now verses getting a deal on spending cuts done. There would be no problem if Obama pulled his revenue off the table and just had the Senate Demoractes pass the spending cut portion. Deal Done ! Tax loop holes is something that needs to happen during the tax reform deal. This deal is about spending cuts.

    March 3, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  24. bearclaw69

    Obviously there is way too much grandstanding going on by both parties, and I'm an independent. But on this issue, I am more sympathetic to the Repubs because Obama got his tax increases in the last skirmish and promised that "we can tackle spending in the next round." He and his Democratic allies seem to have developed 'selective amnesia' regarding that stance and want to reintroduce tax hikes as 'a balanced approach' as though the first fight never took place.

    March 3, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    If politicians are not able to fix this budget, give it to me, I will do it for them. We need resolution now and not later when this really start to hurt federal employees. While politicians are playing these games, I am trying to figure out how to manage a 20 percent reduction in my salary; that's right, it not one day without work a week, it's really 20 percent less from my salary. Thanks for nothing politicians.

    March 3, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
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