March 3rd, 2013
10:05 AM ET
10 years 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."

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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. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    I have 100% confidence in president obamas position on closeing loop holes for oil companies and I have 100% confidences in the gop trying to jeep giving the free tax breaks to the oil and gas companies so that we the voters have to suffer instead . The gop has done nothing to help the economic for the 8 years of bush and 4. Years of Obama ,0. Pay in 2024 mid terms!!!!!

    March 3, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  2. Anonymous

    Please take note:-ALL of the programs proposed, funded and/or saved by Obama relate to and are for the benefit of PEOPLE–UNEMPLOYMENT iNSURANCE (initial & extended), Medicare (saved, Social Security (saved), education loans (saved), food stamps (saved) and many more.--Obama governs for the middle-class, the elderly & the poor.-Republicans would CUT & if possible ELIMINATE all of the above. WHILE granting TAX LOOP HOLES to the VERY wealthy & corporations.-Those TAX LOOP HOLES BENEFIT ONLY the rich & corporations–How about TAX DEDUCTIONS for corporate expenses incurred in moving manufacturing process overseas to foreign countries?)

    March 3, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  3. TonyG

    Whoa! He worked Saturday. Get out the whistles and set off the fire works. Did we get out money's worth? Probably not. We must not compromise. WE need spending cuts . . . NOW. I think they need to give back their pay increase . . . it is a start . . . . WE PAY ENOUGH AND DO NOT NEED TO CONTINUE TO FUEL THIS HUGE GOV'T BUREAUCRACY. 2% cut is a joke . . . we all got a 2% cut at the start of the year . . . didn't WE. It's governments time to CUT.

    March 3, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  4. lottie

    republicans seem to shooting themselves in the foot. I guess the tea party is now in control.

    March 3, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  5. cathy smedley

    So why is this such a problem if Obama promised in his state of the union address he was not going to raise taxes one dime? This should be a no brainer, to intelligent people right? Unless there is nothing intelligent about any of this and it really is political and not altruistic as some claim. You decide. Use your brain. Use your own logical thought process, instead of being spoon fed the truth only to have you call me a racist. Think this one through.

    March 3, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. Ray E. (Georgia)

    So, Why go around the World just to get next door. That is like talking to a fence post. If you want to get something done, you have to get into the mix and hammer out the details. The Federal Government has no business in the Medical business. The Federal Government has no business in the Welfare business. The Federal Government has no business collecting and disbursing money in most cases. There is nothing wrong with Fiscal Responsibility. Do it.

    March 3, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. cathy smedley

    Should there be a problem with this? I thought that the new programs were not going to cost you one dime? If they weren’t then why make raising taxes the reason for sequestration?

    March 3, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. Wes

    uhbama got what he wanted. The sequester was his idea, so now he has to deal with it.

    March 3, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  9. plain&simple

    Only when the American people are totally done with tolerance for this nonsense and vote out the extreme elimints in BOTH parties will change come. The middle ground IS the high ground!!!

    March 3, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. EdR

    Too little – too late. CNN features Obama working frantically at the 11th hour to avert the crisis. Obama has no one to blame but himself. Instead, he whines childishly about how Republicans made it happen.Too bad he was so consumed with narcissism to work this way for the last three months when it might have mattered. Dissing the other side and failing to provide leadership to the Congressional Democrats led to the impasse. Predictable to anyone with eyes to see. Until the President owns up and changes tactics, there will be no progress. Funny thing, the sequester may be the only way to get cuts.

    March 3, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. lapazjim

    Too little too late!! Should have started working on this months ago.Why do politicians always wait till the last minute to work on problems with this country?? They just do not care about what the cosequences are!!

    March 3, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. andrew singer

    Wouldn't it have made sense for him to be on the phone PRIOR to the spending cuts? He managed to find time to comment on gay marriage in california after voters had already spoken. To me, it seems like his only accomplishment last week was pointing blame and further dividing republican and democrat sheeple, now he calls for a bipartisan effort. This guy goes back and forth more than a tennis match.

    March 3, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  13. voxlogicae

    When someone says something like ""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." that immediately makes the conversation useless. It is an attempt to scare people. Why not talk about the real drivers of the deficit and how to reduce spending in those areas without trying to demonize the other side?

    March 3, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  14. roger

    As the saying goes " A day late and a dollar short". Where was our President for the last 18 months??????

    March 3, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  15. Donkey Party

    The GOP are domestic terrorists, and should be tried and punished as such. We can't have another four years of their insolence, ignorance and obstructionism. If the President's plans are so bad, why has the GOP blocked every one of them, instead of letting the President reap the reward or scorn for whatever policy he enacts? The GOP is still doing everything they can to make the President appear weak and ineffective, damn the country and damn the economy, it's always party first for the GOP.

    March 3, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  16. Kev

    Oh my the President is not used to losing on anything. He looks so glum. What a pity. Actually don't feel sorry for the idiot. He did this to us and it was his idea. He lies to all of us. But I'd like to know more about a video that costs us taxpayers 250 Thousands Dollars.

    March 3, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  17. JJ

    Like the old TV commercial said........"Where's the Beef"?
    BOTH sides should have been working this issue but there's ONLY one President who is suppose to LEAD.

    March 3, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  18. Name

    He made his bed. Now he needs to lay in it.

    March 3, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. freedom

    Calls? Is that all he knows how to do – is use his rhetoric?? The country is overloaded with his rhetoric ! It needs a real leader who cares about this country. He should have lost the election for many crucial reasons – but one of them will be that this term is going to totally expose how inept he is – to everyone – even his supporters.

    March 3, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. Sandra.fields

    March 3, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  21. Dolores

    Why didn't he do this long time ago before the cuts took effect instead of wasting the tax payer's money running around the country scaring everyone. He shuld have been in Washington leading the country,for a change, of campaiging which seems the only thing that he is good at,

    March 3, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  22. Aaron76

    How about this idea? If congress can't come up with an agreement THEY ALL take a PAY CUT!!! Instead of the American people!!!! Let them start out w a 15% cut then every month nothing gets done 5% decreases in pay till they come up w some thing for thepeoplen not themselves!!!!

    March 3, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  23. rob

    at some point I expect President Obama will learn that his Presidency will be looked on by history unfavorably.., a failure. In spite of the tone of the argument over where fault lies, every bi-partisan commission ever formed i.e., Gang of 6,Simpson /Bowles, all agree ,cuts to revenue must come at a 3-1 ratio. Even though the Republicans are blamed by the Liberal media, it is the Senante Democrats who will only offer revenue and false cuts full of deception.Democrats won't get off the fence. It is humorous that they act like they are defending Soc. Sec. also ,considering it was L.B.J. who robbed the SS trust fund and Al Gore casting the deciding vote to tax it. Democrats will destroy this Nation. They can not do simple math. Look at Maxine Walters..,

    March 3, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. Notretarded

    It's up to the House and the Senate to cut the shΦt and get us a deal. Obama can't force them to do it. Stop blaming him for the messed up congress's war on intself.

    March 3, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. elise flowers

    Im tryn to brace myself for medicare & soc security cuts n a few months. Why r average americans getting such a raw deal when we voted for these politicians. Seriously! Also i want 2know why we have to carry the burden of their mistakes on our shoulders! Its a wonder ALL AMERICANS are not on crazy meds! For God's sake.

    March 3, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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