President Obama has signed the debt deal, ending months of gridlock and harried weeks of debt negotiations in Washington that brought the country to the brink of default but averted the crisis at the last minute.
The debt deal hashed out by Congressional leaders and the White House over the weekend raises the debt ceiling and guarantees more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.
Even so, the agreement is only the first step, with the real work beginning this fall when a special committee hand-selected by Republicans and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill will get to work finding additional costs savings and possibly new revenue streams with overhauls to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and the U.S. tax system.
“This compromise requires that both parties work together on a larger plan to cut the deficit which is important for the long term health of our economy,” Obama told reporters Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden. “Since you can’t close the deficit with just spending cuts, we’ll need a balanced approach where everything’s on the table.”
Even though the final debt deal, which passed the House Monday and the Senate Tuesday, did not include revenue increases, a top Democratic priority, Obama pledged to continue fighting for “shared sacrifice” when the special joint committee takes up the issue of finding more costs savings in the fall.
“Yes, that means making some adjustments to protect health care programs like medicare so they’re there for future generations,” Obama said. “It also means reforming our tax code so that the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations pay their fair share. And it means getting rid of taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies and tax loopholes that help billionaires pay a lower tax rate than teachers and nurses.”
Obama thanked the American people for their patience and apologized for the gridlock and brinksmanship on vivid display throughout the last months in Washington. The deal prevents the country from defaulting on its debts, which could have shaken an already fragile economy. In the next few months, Washington must focus its efforts on growing the economy and creating jobs.
“In the coming months, I will continue also to fight for what the American people care most about: new jobs, higher wages, and faster economic growth,” Obama said. “While Washington has been absorbed in this debate about deficits, people across the country are asking: what can we do to help the father looking for work? What are we going to do for the single mom who has seen her hours cut back at the hospital? What are we going to do to make it easier for businesses to put up that now hiring sign?”
“So voters may have chosen divided government, but they sure didn’t vote for dysfunctional government,” he added. “They want us to solve problems. They want us to get this economy growing and adding jobs.”
While deficit reduction is part of the agenda in Washington, it is not the entire agenda, Obama said. When congress returns from recess, Obama said he will urge lawmakers to take some immediate steps to boost the economy and create jobs, extend tax cuts for middle class families and unemployment benefits for those out of work. Obama also said he would push for patent reform to end red tape that hampers inventors and entrepreneurs, trade deals with Asia and South America, and government-sponsored loans for private companies that want to repair roads, bridges and airports.
“We have workers who need jobs and a country that needs rebuilding,” he said. “An infrastructure bank would help us put them together.”
In addition, Obama called on Congress to pass the stalled Federal Aviation Administration bill so that construction workers can start airport construction projects around the country and put tens of thousands of construction workers to work.
“It’s another Washington-inflicted wound on America, and Congress needs to break that impasse now,” Obama said.