Obama launches hard sell on deficit plan

United States President Barack Obama on Thursday won an endorsement of his $4-trillion deficit plan from the men who led a bipartisan fiscal commission, amid a building row with Republicans.

Obama and other White House officials mounted a strong push to win acceptance of the 12-year-plan laid out by the president on Wednesday, while his foes on Capitol Hill sought to build momentum behind their rival effort.

The president appeared with Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson in an Oval Office photo-op, and called for both parties to “come together as Americans” to agree a deficit cutting plan.

“As they pointed out in their bipartisan effort, it is important that we put everything on the table, we’ve got to take some tough decisions when it comes to domestic spending,” Obama told reporters.

“We’ve got to look at everything, including our security spending, in order to achieve the goal that we need.

“It’s important to look at our tax code, and find a way to work together to not only simplify and make the tax system fair, but also that we use it as a tool to help us achieve our deficit targets.”

Republicans have savaged ideas for higher taxes on the most affluent Americans which are included in Obama’s plans for $4-trillion in deficit spending over the next 12 years.

No sacrifices
But Obama said “it’s also important, and I think that these gentlemen share that view, that we can’t exempt anybody from these efforts”.

“It’s not appropriate for us to ask for sacrifices from everybody except for the 2% of Americans who are doing best.”

Simpson and Bowles, the co-chairs of the deficit commission which reported last year were largely complimentary about Obama’s plan.

“I think he has come out with a solid, responsible plan,” said Bowles, a former White House chief of staff to president Bill Clinton.

“The era of deficit denial has to end.”

Simpson, a former Republican senator, praised Obama’s decision to put another former senator, Vice President Joe Biden in charge of negotiations on the plan with key leaders in Congress.

He said that every interested party should produce their own plan so that the negotiations could mix various elements and come up with a final bill.

“We’ll do what you do when you legislate ... which is like making sausage,” Simpson said.

The battle over the deficit, taxes and spending is shaping up as the dominant political theme of this year, and is also certain to play a key role in Obama’s 2012 reelection bid.

On a day of dueling press appearances with Republicans, the White House was due to enter into the fray again with an appearance by Obama’s budget director Jacob Lew at the administration’s daily press briefing.—Sapa-AFP


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