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Obama: We don't need a balanced budget amendment


President Obama said today that he hasn't looked at the House Republican plan to make raising the debt ceiling contingent on passing a balanced budget amendment, but he said he's unlikely to support it. Furthermore, he said, the GOP's plan for at least $2.4 trillion in spending cuts is unrealistic.

"I think it's important for everybody to understand all of us believe we need to get to the point where we can balance the budget," Mr. Obama said at a White House press conference. "We don't need a constitutional amendment to do that."

Washington leaders have less than three weeks to reach a deal before August 2, when the Obama administration says the U.S. would be "running on fumes" without an increase in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. The U.S. could risk defaulting on its loans or failing to meet its other financial obligations, which could significantly disrupt the U.S. and world economy, they say.

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With talks stalled over a plan to raise the debt ceiling, House Republican leaders said today that the House will vote on their "cut, cap and balance" plan next week. In addition to making raising the debt ceiling contingent on a balanced budget amendment, the plan also caps government spending at 18 percent of economic output over the next 10 years.

The plan would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, since that is the increase requested by the president. However, the plan would actually make even more in spending cuts -- as much as $111 billion in 2012 alone.

President Obama dismissed the plan as empty politicking with unrealistic policy goals.

"My expectation is you'll probably see the House vote on a couple of things just to make political statements," he said. "If you're trying to get to $2.4 trillion without any revenue, then you are effectively gutting a whole bunch of domestic spending that is going to be too burdensome and is not going to be something I would support."

Republicans said today they could cut more than $100 billion just next year by cutting $35 billion to in mandatory spending. -- without touching spending on veterans, non-Medicare or Social Security. They said the first year of their plan also includes bringing non-security discretionary spending below 2008 levels, which saves $76 billion.

The president said Democrats have already identified more than $1 trillion in cuts to make in both domestic and defense spending, which was hard enough. By doubling that figure, he said, "you're then at that point really taking a big bite out of programs that are really important to ordinary folks."

"I have not seen a credible plan, having gone through the numbers, that would allow you to get to $2.4 trillion without really hurting ordinary folks," Mr. Obama said. "And the notion that we would be doing that and not asking anything from the wealthiest among us or from closing corporate loopholes, that doesn't seem like a serious plan to me."

The president added, "We don't have to do anything radical to solve this problem."

"We don't need a balanced budget amendment," he said. "We simply need to make these tough choices and be willing to take on our bases."

Another source of opposition to the balanced budget amendment came in today's Washington Post lead editorial, calling the amendment a "bad idea that never dies."

"It would revise the Constitution in a way that would give dangerous power to a congressional minority," said the paper. The Post makes a few key arguments in its opposition, primarily that an amendment, without providing Washington with the ability to spend more in an emergency, would tie the hands of the federal government in its attempts to address national security or economic emergencies.

"If a balanced-budget amendment had been in place when the economy crashed in 2008, Congress would have been unable to respond with a stimulus package or efforts to stabilize banks and auto manufacturers," the editorial said. "Even if you believe that was the wrong policy response, it is important that Congress retain the flexibility to craft the correct one."

CBS News Senior Political Producer Rob Hendin contributed to this report.

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