President Obama will make a major push this week to drum up support for his plan to reduce the deficit. In addition to making appearances across the country, the president will sit down with local reporters to make the case that a combination of spending cuts and tax increases for the wealthy are the best approach for tackling America's debt.
The president will be drawing a contrast with the 2012 Republican budget plan,over the next ten years by making dramatic cuts to entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid. The plan also reduces taxes for wealthy individuals and corporations. Republicans passed the GOP budget in the House on Friday, just two days after President Obama for reducing the deficit in an agresssive speech hammering the Republican proposal.
In a series of town hall meetings in northern Virginia and Nevada -- and in a town hall meeting hosted by Facebook -- the president will discuss his plan to reduce the deficit through (at this point, mostly unspecified) spending cuts and increases on taxes for America's highest earners.
Mr. Obama will also grant interviews to reporters from news stations in Colorado, North Carolina, Texas and Indiana on Monday. The goal is to disseminate his message to a broad, locally-based audience in some key battleground states.
The next big fight in the battle over the decifit and debt concerns raising the national debt limit.
According to projections by the Treasury, the U.S. government is expected to hit its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by May 16, 2011. If Congress does not approve an increase to the debt limit by July, the government could default on its bonds for the first time in history. Interest rates would rise and Social Security and Medicare checks would likely see delays as a result of the government's inability to make payments to agencies.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned that "even a very short-term or limited default would have catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades." Geithner has repeatedly urged Congress to approve a hike on the debt limit speedily.
In an interview on Sunday, Geithner expressed his confidence that Congress would comply with that request.
"I want to make it perfectly clear that Congress will raise the debt ceiling," Geithner told ABC's Christiane Amanpour in "This Week." "I sat there with [congressional leaders], and they said, 'We recognize we have to do this. And we're not going to play around with it.'"
"This is just about the basic trust and confidence in the United States," Geithner said. "It's about the basic recognition that we made commitments, we have to meet our commitments. There's no alternative, and they recognize that."
Paul Ryan, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," said that while House Republicans did not want to see the country default on its loans, they would not agree to "rubber stamp" an increase on the debt ceiling that did not include provisions to reduce federal spending.
"Nobody wants to play around with the country's credit rating," Ryan told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "Nobody wants to see defaults happening - but we also think it's important to get a handle on future borrowing as we deal with raising the debt limit."
Ryan also disputed the implication that GOP leadership had already agreed to approve an increase. When asked if Republicans would still vote for raising the debt limit if their demands were not met, Ryan said no.
"I do not ... no, we won't raise it, just simply raise the debt limit," he said. "We will vote to have spending cuts and controls in conjunction with the debt limit increase."
He added that he did not think May 16 was a "hard-fast deadline."
Meanwhile, some Republicans are taking a hard-line approach to the question of reducing the national debt.
Rep. Tom Reed, a New York Republican, introduced a bill to the House last week that would place a clock in the House chamber measuring levels of U.S. debt.
"We are currently borrowing $58,000 per second," Reed said, according to the Hill. "We borrow at least forty cents of each dollar we spend. That is unsustainable. The debt clock will be a distinct reminder that our national debt must always be our first consideration as we continue to spend money that we do not have."