WASHINGTON - It was a striking thing today to see the President of the United States say that he cannot guarantee the 27 million Social Security checks that are due to be mailed on August 3rd.
August 3rd is the day after the U.S. government will default on its debts if Democrats and Republicans do not agree to increase the nation's borrowing limit. Both sides say they won't raise the limit without a deal to massively cut the federal deficit. A U.S. default could shake the world economy. The stakes couldn't be higher. Time is growing short.
CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley met the president this morning at the White House on another day of deadlock. The question is whether a deal to cut the federal deficit will include tax increases as Democrats insist or rely only on budget cuts as Republicans demand. The Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner started the day with a vow that the house will not raise taxes - period.
(Scroll down to see Obama's comments on Rep. Boehner, and Syria)
"This debt limit increase is his problem," Rep. Boehner said. "And I think it's time for him to lead by putting his plan on the table something that the Congress can pass."
The Republican leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell fired a shot that was jarring to many who heard it.
"After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is probably unattainable," Sen. McConnell said.
Pelley: Speaker Boehner said this morning that the debt ceiling is the President's problem - full stop.
Mr. Obama: This is not a Republican or a Democratic problem. This is a national problem that has to be resolved.
Pelley: But the Republicans don't see it that way. The minority leader, Senator McConnell today said, "In the Senate there will be no solution to entitlements or the debt as long as this President is in office."
Mr. Obama: Well, let me say this, Mr. McConnell said, I think the day I was elected, that his job was to try to see me beat. I think what the American people are looking for is not that kind of partisan politics. What I'm offering is a way for us to finally solve this debt and deficit problem in a serious way, with substantial cuts in discretionary spending. Substantial cuts in defense spending. Substantial changes to entitlements, like Medicare and Social Security, that would stabilize those programs and make them available for the next generation. And what I'm asking in return, from the Republicans, is that people like myself, who can afford it, put a little bit of revenue in, so that we don't end up having to put the entire burden of dealing with this debt on the backs of middle class families, and seniors, and students and poor kids.
Pelley: Every day you bring the leadership into the cabinet room, right next to the Oval Office. But I wonder, isn't the problem that a large number of the members of Congress will not follow your leadership, or the Republican leadership?
Mr. Obama: Well, I actually think that the Democrats are prepared to make compromises, and will follow my leadership. I've said more specifically, that I'm willing to make big changes, to take advantage of this opportunity, and finally solve this problem. And I have to point out that this a problem that Republicans said was their biggest priority.
Pelley: You can deliver the Democrats?
Mr. Obama: I am absolutely positive that Democrats are willing to compromise. That doesn't mean I'm gonna get 100 percent of Democrats, because you don't get 100 percent of anything, around here. And yes, there's gonna be resistance in my party. Traditionally - to any changes in entitlement programs. Doesn't it make sense for a hedge fund manager who made a billion dollars last year-- to at least pay-- a similar rate to the file clerk that works for that hedge fund's manager.
Pelley: The Republicans don't think so.
Mr. Obama: I understand Scott. I guess my point is this, I understand the Republicans don't think so. What I'm saying is - what makes sense. And I think the American people would answer the question and say that makes sense.
Pelley: Can you tell the folks at home that no matter what happens, the Social Security checks are gonna go out on August the third? There are about $20 billion worth of Social Security checks that have to go out the day after the government is supposedly gonna go into default?
Mr. Obama: Well, this is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans' checks, these are folks on disability, and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out each month.
Pelley: Can you guarantee, as president, those checks will go out on August the third?
Mr. Obama: I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.
Watch below: Obama thinks Boehner "would like to do the right thing"}
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