President Barack Obama on Tuesday came out swinging at Democratic critics of his tax deal with GOP leaders, saying his party will “never get anything done” if its members refuse to compromise to advance their priorities.
“This notion that somehow, you know, we are willing to compromise too much, reminds me of the debate that we had during health care. This is the public option debate all over again,” Obama said during fiery remarks at a White House press briefing.
The president said he deserves credit for enacting health care reform, “something that Democrats have been fighting for for 100 years,” and that members of his party were wrong to call him weak for not insisting that the law include a government-run health insurance plan.
If Democrats aren’t willing to compromise on priorities such as the health care overhaul, then “we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are and, in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions,” he said.
If Democrats demand ideological purity, Obama said, “then let’s face it: We will never get anything done.”
The president defended himself against attacks that he didn’t fight hard enough against Republican demands for an across-the-board extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. The final plan is shaping up to include a two-year extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts.
“I don’t think ... anybody in this room thinks realistically that we can budge [Republicans] right now,” he told reporters. Still, he took a shot at the GOP for refusing to give on the issue, calling their insistence on tax cuts for the wealthy “their Holy Grail ... their central economic doctrine.”
House Democrats who led the charge for a public health care option disagreed with Obama’s analogy.
“I’d like to challenge that,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), who co-chaired the Congressional Progressive Caucus over the past two years. “The public option was given away before the debate began.”
She added, “I violently disagree” that Obama pushed back hard enough against GOP demands on the tax cut issue. She said that the deal is “almost an insult to the public” and that the president should have at least been “willing to call their bluff” by making Republicans cast votes on extending unemployment insurance before using it as a bargaining chip in the tax cut negotiations. A 13-month extension of unemployment insurance is likely to be included in the tax cut proposal.
“Of course we want unemployment insurance, but why should this be used as blackmail to be helping the top 3 percent of earners?” she asked.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has collected more than 20 signatures in a letter calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to oppose Obama’s tax deal with Republicans.
“We support extending tax cuts in full to 98 percent of American taxpayers, as the President initially proposed. He should not back down. Nor should we,” the letter stated.