LEESBURG, Va. — President Barack Obama took a hard line on looming automatic spending cuts Thursday, saying a standoff with Republicans over whether to replace the cuts in part with new tax increases is “an argument I’m more than willing to engage in.”
Obama made the remarks at the House Democratic Caucus’ retreat here and previewed his upcoming State of the Union address, saying its theme will be the “bedrock notion that our economy succeeds and our economy grows when everybody’s getting a fair shot and everybody’s getting a fair shake.”
He urged the caucus to stick to its principles in upcoming legislative fights on guns and immigration, in addition to continued spending skirmishes with congressional Republicans.
The GOP would like to replace the sequester, which begins to go into effect March 1, with other, more targeted spending cuts, while Democrats have said Congress should replace them with a combination of cuts and tax increases that would decrease the deficit by the same amount as the cuts.
“We need to reduce the deficit but it shouldn’t just be on the backs of seniors, it shouldn’t just be on the backs of young people who are trying to get a college education, it shouldn’t just be on the backs of parents who are trying to give their kids a better start in life — that all of us have to participate,” Obama said. “I promise you we can win that debate.”
Obama made several references to complaints from House members who feel he has not paid sufficient attention to their interests, at times gently mocking Democrats for taking issue with his approach.
Beginning his remarks with an unexpected announcement that he would take questions from members after his speech, Obama said, “I thought, since this is not a shy bunch, it might make sense for me to take some questions and some advice I’m sure you guys have for me.”
He later referred to reading about the complaints in the press, but said that as long as members remember “why we came here in the first place” and that “maybe my purpose here on Earth is not just thinking about what’s in it for me,” Democrats will continue making “extraordinary progress” on policy fights.
“As a by-product of doing that good work and keeping that focus, I would expect that Nancy Pelosi’s gonna be speaker again real soon,” he added.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.