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. California Don

    I'll really worried about these spending cuts! I realize the $85 billion is what this country borrows every 30 days, but according to my fellow Californian Maxine Waters, we stand to lose 180 million jobs over this!

    March 3, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  2. Pete G

    When will a republican learn how to handle Obama? Revenues are taxes.
    Taxes on business or the 1% are passed on to the rest of the country. Taxes on business through Obama care or loopholes being closed are non-controllable expenses on a profit and loss statement, demand is down with less discretionary income available, wages are down meaning top lies are not growing. Why do progressives not understand simple business concepts. Any tax increase will lead to hours being cut, job losses, and benefit reductions (controllable expenses will be reduced when non controllable s are increased) Wealthy individuals and business do not exist to fund Obamas progressive agenda.

    March 3, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  3. Derek

    Oh, we also need to start cutting the "charity" contributions to countries that do not like the US – Venezuela, etc. This should save more than the $85B cuts that went into mandatory – and that can be just in this year alone! Open up your eyes Congress! It is not that hard to really do what is needed and right for this country. Stop letting re-elections and pocketbooks make your decision. And while we are at it, cut the special programs for elected officials such as their own retirement and medical programs – use what the public uses. And no more pay-for-life after being in office; the rest of the working population do not have such pension plans – donate to a 401K. Or is a 401K not good enough for elected officials? Then why have your own?

    March 3, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. texasnotea

    Five years ago when the President was elected the first time, the republicans announced they would never work with him on anything and as a matter of fact, they would see him become a one term president and that was their only goal. It wasn't to help him undo the mess dub'ya left, it wasn't to work together to help solve Americas problems and it certainly wasn't help in any form or fashion to make this country stronger and better. Now that he has been reelected by a wide margin, they have chosen to continue the same policies and blame all the non cooperation on him. BS! It is all BS because he is not the problem, the republicans are the problem and have been all along. Look it up!

    March 3, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  5. jowl

    All work and no play makes the socialist a dull comrade.

    March 3, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. Brian in DC

    Just finished watching the movie Idiocracy and now I understand the average Dem's thought process.

    March 3, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  7. uncdig

    why didnt he start this about 6 nonths ago?

    March 3, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  8. Elect a new bunch of politicians

    Ok, when The president said the republicans are causing this by insisting no new taxes. What I am hearing is him insisting that the solution HAS to have new taxes. So who is being childish? The answer is BOTH.
    We need to replace all politicians, and add at least a third party, maybe even a fourth.

    March 3, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  9. Pete G

    this is simple pretend the federal government was a business or a household, once you spend more than you bring in you are running a deficit, you either tap into savings or borrow to continue operations.

    The USA does not have have a surplus to offset the deficit we now have a national debt of 16 trillion dollars any household or business would have long since declared bankruptcy

    .What is so difficult in understanding that?

    Companies are not formed to fund liberal ideology, they exist to maximize profit.
    People do not work hard each and every day to give it to a government to redistribute it in exchange for votes

    Fund the military, and social security and medicare. Eliminate everything else. Set spending at a fraction of what it is now. The rest of the money stays in the private sector.

    Replace unemployment and welfare with work at home programs or paid retraining in sectors of the private economy that are growing, no more free rides. Someone on welfare or unemployment should have an exit strategy to be supporting their self and their family

    Businesses that provide these opportunities will get incentives to do so. .

    With that said all tax rats will go way down, if you believe in liberal causes you will have plenty of extra money to donate to whatever cause you feel worthwhile.

    Forcing your beliefs and your agenda on all citizens whether they agree or not is why this country has problems. Smaller government, less taxation, less regulation if you believe in a cause fund it yourself

    March 3, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  10. Lee

    Strange that it is the republican's fault when our President decided to sign this into law instead of vetoing it.....

    March 3, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  11. Sanfran221

    $85B in cuts. $1.315T to go.

    March 3, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  12. Smeagel4T

    It's good to see the nation finally has a strong leader in the White House who's willing to stand up to the Republican bullies. Boehner has demonstrated that he does nothing but lead his caucus from behind. He lacks any leadership ability to convince his caucus to do what is right for the American people.

    March 3, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
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