WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama Tuesday hammered congressional Republicans, accusing them of putting politics ahead of “common sense” solutions on mandatory spending cuts in an effort to shift blame fully onto Congress.
“I cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions. I can urge them to, I can put pressure on them, I can rally the American people around those common-sense solutions, but ultimately they themselves” will have to do it, Obama said during a press conference marking the first 100 days of his second term.
“They’re worried about their politics. It’s tough. Their base thinks compromise with me is somehow a betrayal. They’re worried about primaries,” he said.
Pointing to Republican campaign rhetoric, Obama argued that initially the GOP appeared concerned about the effects of the cuts, known as the sequester.
But once the White House made clear they would only agree to changing the cuts if it included “closing some loopholes” in the tax code, “Suddenly, [Republicans said,] ‘Well, you know what, we’ll take the sequester.’”
Asked what he was doing to fix the sequester, Obama bristled. “You seem to suggest that it’s my job to get these folks over there to behave. That’s their job. Members of Congress are elected in order to do what’s right for their constituents and the American people.”
Obama also seemed to reject a piecemeal approach to addressing the cuts. “The only way we’re going to lift it is if we do a bigger deal that meets the test of lowering our deficit and growing our economy at the same time,” Obama said.
Still, he defended his decision to not veto a narrow fix to FAA spending that Congress passed last week to avoid massive flight delays, arguing to do so “just means that there’d be pain now, which they’d try to blame on me.”
However, Obama said he remains hopeful some sort of compromise can be found with Congress, particularly on immigration.
“Right now things are pretty dysfunctional up on Capitol Hill. Despite that, I am confident there are a range of things we can get done,” Obama said, predicting bipartisan immigration talks will “result in a bill that passes the Senate, passes the House, and gets on my desk.”