Obama "eager and anxious" to end "government by crisis"
President Obama speaks during the House Democratic Issues Conference at the Lansdowne Resort February 7, 2013 in Lansdowne, Virginia. / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Giving House Democrats a preview of his upcoming State of the Union address, President Obama today said the foundation of his second-term agenda will be creating an economy that works for all Americans. With that in mind, he said he's ready to cut a "big deal" with Republicans to end the lingering sense of uncertainty over the economy.
"I'm prepared, eager and anxious to do a big deal, a big package that ends this government by crisis," Mr. Obama told the Democratic lawmakers at their retreat in Lansdowne, Va.
"We are threatening this hard-won recovery where finally housing's starting to pick up," he said, yet "we continue to have these self-inflicted crises in Washington that suddenly lead everybody to tap the brakes...I want to do something big to provide steadiness and certainty for the economy, a balanced package that will reduce our long-term deficit and debt but still allows us to invest in those things we need right now."
In the coming weeks, Congress will have to address a series of potential fiscal "crises": By March 1, Congress must decide whether to avert the so-called "sequester" spending cuts, which slash $1.2 trillion from defense and non-defense government spending. They will also have to raise the debt ceiling in the spring, as well as pass a bill to continue funding federal government operations. All the while, lawmakers are searching for a "comprehensive" plan for deficit and debt reduction.
Mr. Obama reiterated his argument today that a "balanced" approach to deficit reduction must include closing tax loopholes and deductions to raise new revenue. He charged that Republicans want to avert the "sequester" simply by cutting Social Security or Medicare and said, "If that's an argument they want to have before the court of public opinion, that is an argument I'm more than willing to engage in."
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, told CBS News that the president has no credibility on the issue of serious government reform, in part because "his entire campaign was about raising taxes on millionaires." He said he's "not at all encouraged" Washington lawmakers will reach an agreement over the looming sequester cuts.
"For a year and a half, they've talked and finger-pointed and in large measure I blame the president," McDonnell said. "The president has failed to get directly involved and lead and put anything realistic on the table in spending cuts and entitlement reforms."
In the face of such Republican pushback, the president today urged his fellow Democrats "to feel confident and bold about the values we care about and what we stand for." At the same time, he warned them "not to read too much" into their 2012 victories.
The nation "is big, it is diverse, it is contentious, and we don't have a monopoly on wisdom," he said.
Mr. Obama said his decision-making over the next four years will be guided by the idea that "our economy succeeds and our economy grows when everybody's getting a fair shot and everybody's getting a fair shake."
"I believe that is a growth agenda -- not just an equity agenda, not just a fairness agenda," he said. With that in mind, he said his State of the Union address on Tuesday will cover job creation, energy and education, among other things.
"It means that we're going to talk about, yes, deficits and taxes and sequesters and potential government shutdowns and debt ceilings -- we'll talk about that stuff," he said. "But all from the perspective of how do we make sure that somebody that works hard in this country... that they can make it."
CBS News senior political producer Caroline Horn contributed to this report.
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