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. bearclaw69

    I'm independent, but the Democrats are using selective amnesia to get around the fact that the Repubs consented to some tax increases just a few months ago in the first skirmish. Now the libs want to argue that a "balanced approach" is the best approach, without acknowledging that the Repubs gave in on tax rates last time. They can't have it both ways, and it's apparent the Repubs are not going to give in again this time.

    March 3, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  2. sifto

    who is he talking to by phone? why does he not call them and meet in person? he would rather fly around and waste gas in his jet to campaign...

    March 3, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  3. deacongray

    I am worried that the cuts were set up in such an obviously stupid manner. If both sides agree their are stupid...why were they ever approved in the first place? "To force them to work together!"
    OK that is stupid...the American people are being held economically hostage as the president attempts to push for these loop holes to be cut, and the Republicans try to stop from being bullied by the president.
    Both sides need to go. Perhaps we should do a symbolic recall peteition on the whole government. WE the People are Sick their collective BS.

    March 3, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  4. Meki60

    Obama is a charlatan and a failure

    March 3, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  5. Emi

    President Obama should have been looking ahead and trying to hammer out a deal INSTEAD of golfing with Tiger. It's easy to see where his priorities are.

    March 3, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    We've already done tax increases without ANY spending cuts. No more tax increases until spending cuts are first addressed. Dems fail to understand that Obamacare, the proposed minimum wage increase and more tax increases cannot all be achieved without serious consequences. If you don't understand that then you have no business sense!

    March 3, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. well

    No government is a much better deal to 99% than a government of 1%, by 1%, and for 1%. quagmire works for me!

    March 3, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. Laierd Bagnall

    As a result of House Republicans holding the debt ceiling hostage and refusing to raise the debt limit in the summer of 2011 (paying the bills they had already approved)…the United States credit rating was immediately lowered, causing borrowing costs to increase for everyone and slowing growth. To get them to agree to pay their bills, the” Budget Control Act of 2011” was signed into law. A compromise was struck between the administration and the House Republicans. This was the deal.

    If a bi-partisan super committee could not agree to compromise on revenue and spending in the fall of 2011, a sequester would go into effect in March of 2013, forcing across the board cuts of 85 billion dollars in 2013. John Boehner walked out of those talks boasting that he got 98% of what he wanted. Republicans now say that the sequester was Obama’s idea, (fault) but at that time, they were more than pleased with the plan. No wonder. They wanted spending cuts and they got them….immediately. In fact, as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the budget was cut a total of 1.6 trillion dollars over ten years with an added savings of 200 billion from reduced interest on the saved money. At that time the Republicans gave up nothing. Later, in Jan 2013, to avoid another “fiscal cliff” of their own making, the Republicans, in the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2013”, gave up only 18% of the Bush tax cuts for a total revenue increase of 600 billion over the same ten year period, raising taxes on only .7% of the wealthiest without any cuts to tax loopholes, such as carried interest.

    Clearly spending cuts have vastly outpaced revenue increases almost 2.5 to 1, and the sequester will make those totals even more lopsided. It’s no wonder Republicans left Capitol Hill smiling on the first of March. When our economic recovery lags in future months and years, be sure to know whom to thank, remembering that Republicans told us that the Government doesn’t provide jobs. Tell that to the military and defense contractors in our area. If nothing else, those responsible for this debacle should have their salaries and staff “sequestered” for their intransigence and refusal to govern.

    Laird Bagnall

    March 3, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. rs3678

    Tea party at the helm!!!!

    March 3, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    If these people in Washington made the average salary of every American you would see a balanced budget!!!!!

    March 3, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. Weasley

    To those who keep screaming, "I've paid enough," well, no you haven't. None of us have paid enough.

    When Bush 43 engaged America in two wars, that's TWO WARS!, he should have tripled our taxes, but he didn't. Bush just kicked the can, and now the bill is due.

    Don't expect just the poor to pay for Bush's forays into the Middle East. That bill comes out of all of our pockets–the rich included. Maybe next time a president gets a little too hawkish the people will make some noise.

    March 3, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. Ken

    The problem is debt and our need to borrow for that spending. We can't find enough buyer for our debt, so our Fed writes IOUs for 45 billion a month. The Repubicans are like your parents telling you to stop spending and live within your means. The democrats are like the devil telling you spend, someone else will pay the bill later. Remember, the Democrats control most of Washington. . .

    March 3, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  13. Time to give up

    Maybe he should have been doing this instead of campaigning the last couple months. The election is over Obama just do your work. Campaigning about congress and the doom sequester brings is NOT your job. You are a leader not a PR person.

    March 3, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  14. Dan in FL

    A few observations:

    1) While the sequester may have been the President's idea, both sides agreed to it and now both sides own it.

    2) All the whining about how the sequester is going to hurt jobs is a red herring. Any significant government cuts will hurt jobs because it takes money out of people's pockets. Get real.

    3) We not only need to eliminate the deficit, we need to reduce the nation's debt. This can only be done by running a surplus, and doing so will require new taxes. Closing loopholes in the tax code and ending corporate welfare are good places to start. Besides, true fiscal conservatives would argue that the government shouldn't be playing favorites.

    4) A temporary war tax needs to be levied to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. If it was so patriotic to go to war that no one could object without being labeled as un-American, then its just as patriotic to pay for those wars.

    5) According the the Constitution, any budget must start in the House. The President is not required to propose anything but may do so when there is a leadership vacuum. In this case, neither the President or the Speaker of the House are leading.

    6) Both House and Senate incumbents need to voted out of office in 2014 – they are traitors to our country. We need open primaries in all states to increase the chance that incumbents will be eliminated early, leaving the voters with a real choice at election time. Open primaries already exist in a few states.

    March 3, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. tomminn

    Stopping the sequester is very simple. Start with an immediate solution while working on the long-term fixes.The following business like approach should be acceptable to everyone. If they all joined together and say this is what we decided for the good of the country no one has to accept blame.Tell all federal employees they get a 2% pay cut so they can feel what the rest of the country has been going through under OBlama. Second-tell every federal agency to reduce their spending for non-payroll related items by 2%.Every agency has at least 2% fluff in their budgets–probably more like 5%.This 2% across the board raises the $85 billion. When the long-term spending problem is solved then reinstate pay cuts to the degree possible while still staying within spending limits.Why would anyone oblject to this? Rational responses only please.

    March 3, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  16. Due Diligence

    What if there was a massive government spending cut, and nobody noticed?

    OK, some people will notice, but sadly, welcome to the real world... how many people in private industry have had to go on furloughs over the last several years? How many people in private industry have not received raises in many years? How many people in private industry have been laid off?

    Funny to see all the doom and gloom.... big full page 2 in Sunday Newsday (Long Island newspaper) that the Thunderbirds (air show) may not perform at Jones Beach this year due to sequestration. Ouch, how will we live without that?

    So, what if there was a big government spending cut, and nobody really noticed. Is that what some people are afraid of?

    March 3, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  17. Power Whimp

    Tax and spend. There must be a reason the dems have this reputation.
    Quid pro quo in lawyer speak. This for that. I give you gov't freebies, you give me your vote.
    Worst president in history.

    March 3, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  18. steve

    for all of you who want to close the loop holes for oil companies
    you are plain stupid
    gas will go to 10 bucks a gallon
    are you people idiots are what?

    March 3, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. jame sanders

    Obama is going to leave the presidency still blaming bush and the GOP after 8 years of his failed leadership. MAN UP.

    March 3, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  20. Dave

    The only people facing election in two years are members of Congress. Guess it's the price you pay for partisanship, GOP.

    March 3, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  21. Steve Andrews

    What part of "you already got your revenue and you haven't made any cuts" is puzzling our supposedly intelligent president? What happened to his campaign promise of a "balanced approach"? Obama is so out of touch with reality, and his Administration is so inept that it is unbelievable.

    March 3, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  22. JonQCit

    Working with the two parties is what many Americans have been asking for since it became apparent that the touring the country making speeches approach had little effect in comparison to what the face to face discussions yeild.

    March 3, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. Ancient Texan

    Sandra- The Republicans are trying its best to stop the tax and spend Democrats from turning the country in Cuba. We cannot sustain adding $1.6 trillion every year to national debt.

    March 3, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. Adak95

    He works one day out of 30, and CNN calls it news. Well I guess for him it is.

    March 3, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  25. Derek

    The cuts are only 3% of the overall budget folks! And it is a portion of the "discretionary spending" budget which is only about a third of the budget. We need to address the "mandatory" side of the budget such as welfare and other social programs (almost 50% of overall budget; rest is interest on the debt!). Congress decides what is mandatory or not. If congress reclassifies welfare and then we address this – only then will we start to address the real issues. The government CANNOT be spending more than it earns. That is why our overall debt has risen from $6T to over $13T under the current administration and rule.

    We are making it easy for people to stay on welfare since one would have to make almost $15/hr to cover what welfare pays – medical, taxes, etc. Why do we keep incentivising people to be on welfare; we need to get them off or get them do do something to earn it – pick up trash, mow park lawns, etc. I have written numerous letters to my reps on an outline of how we can get people out there working and yet I only get "canned" letter responses. Congress needs to be completely fired and get people elected that care about the country and not their pocketbooks and re-election.

    March 3, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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