President Obama stopped by the White House briefing room late Tuesday afternoon to make a speech that announced, well, essentially nothing. The only straight news from Obama's speech was scant information on an invitation extended to Congressional leaders for a meeting at the White House on Thursday. After he interjected himself in the debate during a press conference last week, it isn't surprising that Obama will assume a prominent role in pinning down a deal, so the announcement of the meeting isn't too noteworthy.
Refraining from comparing Republicans to his teenage daughters again, Obama stuck with his typical platitudes of finding agreement by working toward a common goal. "We've made progress, and I believe that greater progress is within sight," Obama said without explaining what, if anything, has changed since last week. The president stuck solely to generalities on what he is willing to compromise in a deal, though it was reported this morning that the White House is open to cuts in Medicare and Medicad if they are paired with new taxes. Obama said "spending on certain tax breaks and deductions" must be part of the equation. With taxes generally viewed strictly in terms of marginal rates rather than the exceptions, new revenues derived from closing tax breaks would increase the federal government's revenue while still providing Republicans cover for explaining their actions to their Tea Party base.
The Beltway GOP establishment is crying out for Congressional Republicans to accept that offer, but they still seem unready to accept anything that would increase revenue. On MSNBC Texas Sen. John Cornyn stood firm that Republicans will not bend on any form of increase to the tax rate. "Let me be just as clear, as clear as I know how. We're not for raising taxes through the front door or the back door during a fragile economic recovery because we think that would make the unemployment worse, not better," Cornyn said, failing to note that the draconian spending cuts pushed by his party would also hurt the economy and unemployed.
During his brief speech Obama reiterated his desire for a long-term solution instead of a stopgap increase to the debt ceiling until negotiators reach an agreement on the terms of deficit reduction. He also shifted the timeline forward, saying that a deal needed to be reached in the next two weeks. Treasury has until August 2 to raise the limit before the government must begin defaulting on its obligations; at the end of last week the White House began pushing July 22 as the date by which a deal needs to happen. Their reasoning is that once the overall concept of the deal is in place, it will still take another week or two for the particulars to be ironed out and a deal to make its way through Congress. "This should not come down to the last second," Obama said today.