WASHINGTON, (AFP) – US President Barack Obama on Saturday renewed his appeal to Democrats and Republicans to “work together” to find a way to solve the nation’s debt problem, but continued to insist on eliminating tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president said that “Democrats and Republicans have to work together” in order to reach a deal on averting a debt default in early August.
“It means we need to put aside our differences to do what’s right for the country,” Obama said. “Everyone is going to have to be willing to compromise. Otherwise, we’ll never get anything done.”
The comments came after Obama angrily summoned top lawmakers to the White House for emergency negotiations scheduled for 11:00 am (1500 GMT) Saturday, warning that politicians were running out of time.
The decision came as White House talks to avert an early August debt default teetered on the edge of collapse after Republican House Speaker John Boehner abruptly quit the negotiations.
Boehner said in a letter to members of the House of Representatives that he was walking away because the Democratic president was insisting on increasing tax revenue collected from the rich and wealthy corporations.
In his address, Obama insisted on the need to move toward compromise, but did not back away from his demand for new taxes on the wealthiest.
“Before we cut medical research, we should ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries,” he said. “Before we ask seniors to pay more for Medicare, we should ask the wealthiest taxpayers to give up tax breaks we simply cannot afford under these circumstances.”
But the president also stressed the need for a compromise solution.
“We can come together for the good of the country and reach a compromise; we can strengthen our economy and leave for our children a more secure future,” he said. “Or we can issue insults and demands and ultimatums at each another, withdraw to our partisan corners, and achieve nothing.”
The US government reached its debt limit of $14.29 trillion in May, and since then the Treasury Department has used special measures to allow the government to keep paying its bills.
But unless the limit is raised by August 2, the Treasury says, growing spending and debt service commitments will force a default, which would have disastrous ripple effects throughout the global financial system.
By August 2, the government will have to begin withholding payments — to bond holders, civil servants, retirees or government contractors — and the White House has urged a deal by July 22 to have time to pass it.