President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner held dueling addresses to the nation Monday night, sparring over who is to blame for the stalemate in Washington ahead of next week’s deadline for raising the debt ceiling.
From the White House, Obama accused Republicans of playing a “dangerous game” that risks a debt default in a week. He urged compromise to break the impasse and avoid a manufactured economic crisis that he said would lead to much higher interest rates.
Obama warned that the public should not become “collateral damage” to Washington infighting. “The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government,” he said.
He warned that the government would not have enough money to pay all its bills, including Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits and government contractors.
“Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask corporate jet owners and oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get,” he said.
He cast the House GOP as refusing to compromise, even though he said many Senate Republicans and even Boehner had shown a willingness to do so.
“History is scattered with the stories of those who held fast to rigid ideologies and refused to listen to those who disagreed,” Obama said. “But those are not the Americans we remember. We remember the Americans who put country above self and set personal grievances aside for the greater good.”
He even quoted President Ronald Reagan on an earlier bipartisan compromise with Congressional Democrats that included new revenue.
But Boehner, following the president, talked tough about holding the line on spending. “In Washington, more spending and more debt is business as usual,” he said. “I’ve got news for Washington: Those days are over.”
Boehner said that he made a sincere effort to work with Obama but that the “president would not take yes for an answer” and changed his demands in mid-negotiation.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.