Obama won't compromise "balanced approach" on budget, despite gridlock

President Barack Obama, interviewed by CBS News' Scott Pelley, as broadcast on "Face the Nation," Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012.
CBS News

(CBS News) President Obama is "more than happy to work with the Republicans" on creating a bipartisan budget that could pass a split Congress, he told CBS News anchor Scott Pelley in part of an exclusive interview that aired Sunday on "Face the Nation." The only problem is, the plan he's proposing has already been rejected by the GOP-controlled House.

"Keep in mind that the trillion dollars that we cut, you know, was a painful exercise," the president said when asked what he'd be willing to compromise in order to finally reach a "grand bargain" on the 2013 federal budget, which remains in limbo, save for a recently-passed continuing resolution. "There are some programs that are worthy, but we just can't afford right now."

Mr. Obama's plan for reducing the deficit would cut $2.50 in spending allowances for every $1 of increased tax revenue - the same deal House Republicans turned down during last year's near-government shutdown episode. When Pelley reminded him of that, the president reasoned, "That's part of what this election's about," adding that GOP nominee Mitt Romney told "Face the Nation" in June he stood by an earlier pledge not to raise taxes, even if it meant $10 in spending cuts for every $1 increased revenue.

"You can't reduce the deficit unless you take a balanced approach that says, 'We've gotta make government leaner and more efficient,'" the president said. "But we've also got to ask people - like me or Gov. Romney, who have done better than anybody else over the course of the last decade, and whose taxes are just about lower than they've been in the last 50 years - to do a little bit more.

"And if we go back to the tax rates for folks making more than $250,000 a year, back to the rates that we had under Bill Clinton," he continued, "we can close the deficit, stabilize the economy, keep taxes on middle class families low, [and] provide the certainty that I think all of us would be looking for."

Noting that there's "still waste, there's still programs that don't work, there are still ways that we can make it leaner and efficient," Mr. Obama said he's "willing to do more on that front" and work with Republicans to pare down that waste.

"As I argued at the convention," he said, "those of us who believe the government can be a force for good when it comes to creating opportunity for folks who are willing to work hard and play by the rules to get into the middle class, we have an obligation to make sure government works."

Tossing in an aside about the two tickets ongoing debate on Medicare, the president said he's willing to make "some adjustments to Medicare and Medicaid that would strengthen the programs." But, he added, "the way to do that is to keep health care costs low; it's not to 'voucherize' programs so that suddenly seniors are the ones who are finding their expenses much higher."

More from Scott Pelley's interview with President Obama will air Monday on "CBS This Morning" and on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley."

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