Sen. Durbin to ABC News: 'Disappointed' in Status of Debt Talks

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sources on both sides of the debt negotiations tell ABC News that Sunday night’s meeting did nothing to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats. The only thing negotiators could agree on was to keep meeting; that, plus a shared belief in the room that those who downplay the consequences of default are just plain wrong.

After President Obama ratchets up the pressure with another press conference Monday, negotiators will go back in and lay out their differing perspectives on the amount of savings agreed to during the talks led by Vice President Biden last month. (Democrats and Republicans could be as much as $1 trillion apart.)

Reaching the fallback $2-2.5 trillion deal may not be all that much easier than the $4 trillion deal that collapsed this weekend. But Monday morning on ABC’s Good Morning America Democratic negotiator Sen. Dick Durbin was cautiously optimistic.

“I can tell you the president is determined to keep us there and make certain that we’re focused on the fact that the decision we make in that room will affect families across the American and decide whether this economy is going to recover. If we falter, if we don’t have sufficient political courage and will to get this done and this economy is going to be hurt then it’s going to fall on our shoulders,” he said.

Durbin called on GOP counterparts to “stay at the table” and said both sides need to be willing to put up big items. And he didn’t hesitate to point a finger at House Speaker John Boehner’s balk at the bigger $4 trillion deal.

“I’m disappointed. Last Thursday there was resolve through most of the leadership, Democrat, Republican, to do something serious and something large enough that would address our deficit in a...serious way but in a coordinated way, bringing everything to the table and being balanced,” Durbin said. “Unfortunately over the weekend Speaker Boehner said ‘I can’t deliver. I can’t produce on my side.’”

So how do they reach a deal in the next few days?

“I think that’s why the president has told us ‘Roll up your sleeves and be prepared to stay and get the job done.’ There have been a lot of folks on the other side of the table who have said ‘Well, maybe we need half a deal, maybe we need it for just a few months,’ and the president said ‘No.’ He’s told us over and over again, ‘We’ve heard your speeches, but this deficit is a moral crisis, it’s holding back our economic recovery and we’ve got to give some certainty to the business community across America about our future,” Durbin said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Debt Talks Make Little Progress, Will Continue Monday

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama told congressional leaders Sunday night that he is prepared to make the tough decisions on entitlement spending to reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling and cutting the deficit, a Democrat familiar with the negotiating process told ABC News.

But if Republicans are not willing to do the same regarding taxes, the president asked them during a meeting at the White House, what is their alternative?

After meeting for 75 minutes, congressional leaders will be back at the White House Monday afternoon to continue negotiations.

On Monday morning, the president will hold a news conference on the matter, making his case to the American people about why tax rates for wealthier Americans and corporations need to be raised as part of a deficit reduction package of at least $4 trillion over the next decade.

Republicans say House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sought a similarly sized package that would reduce and reform entitlement spending and cut and cap discretionary spending.  The bill -- which would also raise the debt ceiling through November 2012 -- would contain language committing to principles of tax reform, which key House and Senate committee chairmen would then turn into actual numbers.

Talks broke down, Republicans said, when the president would not commit to the principle that everyone's tax rates would come down.

Also in Sunday night's meeting, Obama again took the idea of a short-term debt ceiling fix off the table.  Whatever Congress passes in terms of deficit reduction, the debt ceiling needs to be raised until after November 2012, a Democratic briefing on the discussions told ABC News.

The president also told congressional leaders to come back Monday with a view on what could pass both the House and the Senate.

A Democratic aide familiar with the process said that Boehner "put on the table letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and banking the revenue and then he bailed.  The speaker couldn't take the heat from the Republican caucus."

Although Boehner warned Saturday evening that the two sides should "focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the [Vice President Joe] Biden-led negotiations," Democrats involved in the negotiations say they still prefer to go for the "grand bargain" that would cut closer to $4 trillion over 10 years.

"We came into this weekend with the prospect that we could achieve a grand bargain," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement following the meeting.  "We are still hopeful for a large bipartisan agreement, which means more stability for our economy, more growth and jobs, and more deficit reduction over a longer period of time."

"This package must do no harm to the middle class or to economic growth," the California Democrat said.  "It must also protect Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries, and we continue to have serious concerns about shifting billions in Medicaid costs to the states."

A senior aide to the speaker said Boehner told the leaders that he still "believes a package based on the work of the Biden group is the most viable option at this time for moving forward."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Maryland Petition Forces Referendum on State DREAM Act

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- With federal legislation perpetually stalled in Congress, 13 states have taken the DREAM Act into their own hands, passing legislation to provide in-state tuition and reduce other funding barriers so that undocumented immigrants can attend college.

Last week, Maryland became the first state to try to overturn its version of the act.

The Maryland State Board of Elections announced Thursday that opponents to the DREAM Act had collected the required 55,736 signatures, or 3 percent of voters from the last gubernatorial election, that are needed to put the law up for referendum on the ballot next November.

By Friday afternoon, the petition had 74,108 verified signatures.

"The Maryland referendum will really give lawmakers at the state and federal level a gauge for how American taxpayers feel about extending taxpayer benefits and subsidies to illegal aliens who are not taxpayers themselves," said Kristen Williamson, a spokeswoman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Maryland Sen. Victor Ramirez, who sponsored the bill, said the only reason people oppose the law is because they do not know what is actually in it.

According to the law, undocumented immigrants must attend a Maryland high school for at least three years, earn a diploma, prove their parents pay taxes and enroll in a community college paying out-of-state tuition for two years before they are eligible for in-state tuition at a four-year public university.

"I think the economy is bad, and opponents are playing off peoples' worst fears that we are giving away free tuition," Ramirez said.  "And that is absolutely false."

Sen. Dick Durbin has introduced the DREAM Act in the U.S. Senate every session since 2001.  The closest it ever came to becoming law was in 2010, when it passed in the Democrat-controlled House but was eight votes shy of overcoming a filibuster in the Senate.

The law under discussion at the federal level does not give any tuition breaks to undocumented immigrants but allows children who were brought to the country illegally when they were under the age of 15 to become permanent residents if they completed two years of college or enrolled in the military.

Opponents of the federal bill say it would grant amnesty to people who broke the law and create more competition for jobs at a time when even American citizens cannot find work.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin Says She Can Win in 2012

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If confidence was all it took to be elected president, you could turn off your TV sets right now because Republican Sarah Palin will be taking the oath of office in January 2013.

The former Alaska governor told Newsweek magazine in a cover story out on Sunday, "I believe that I can win a national election."

Yet, Palin still won't commit to a run for the White House even as the time grows short to set up political organizations in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Palin, who was John McCain's running mate in 2008, told Newsweek, "The people of America are desperate for positive change, and deserving of positive change, to get us off of this wrong track.  I'm not so egotistical as to believe that it has to be me, or it can only be me, to turn things around.  But I do believe that I can win."

She added that continued interest in her possible campaign for the GOP presidential nod means that the current field is not set.

However, if there's one deal breaker that would definitely keep Palin from tossing her hat into the ring it's her family members telling her, "Please, mom, don't do this."

Her eldest daughter, Bristol Palin, has previously said her mother would make an "awesome" president.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Minnesota Natives Pawlenty, Bachmann Wage War of Words

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The two Republican presidential candidates from Minnesota waged a war of words on Sunday as the fight for votes in neighboring Iowa heats up ahead of the Ames straw poll there next month.

The first shots were fired by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who ripped into his fellow North Star State native, Rep. Michele Bachmann, in an interview with NBC's David Gregory on Meet the Press, calling her record "nonexistent."

"I like Congresswoman Bachmann.  I've campaigned for her.  I respect her.  But her record of accomplishment in Congress is nonexistent.  It's nonexistent," Pawlenty said.  "And so we're not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities.  We're looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion.  I've done that, and she hasn't."

Late Sunday, Bachmann released a statement touting her record on Capitol Hill.

"Instead of negativity, I want to focus on my accomplishments," she said.  "I have fought the cap-and-trade agenda, rather than implement it, and I will work to end cap-and-trade as president of the United States.  I stood up against President Obama's support of the $700 billion bailout rather than defend it.  I was a leading voice, fighting against Obamacare and the unconstitutional individual mandates; I did not lift my voice in praise of it.  My message brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington, D.C. to oppose Obamacare."

"As president I will not rest until Obamacare is repealed.  And I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling," she vowed.  "People can count on me as a fighter; I am proud of my record of fighting with resolve, and without apology, for our free markets, for sane fiscal policies, and in opposition to the advancement of the big government left.  As president, the American people can count on me to stand by my record of advancing pro-growth policies to put our nation back on the right track."

Right now, it is Bachmann, not Pawlenty, who is looking strong in the polls.  Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, Iowa, came in a close second to GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney in the recent Des Moines Register poll, trailing him only 23 percent to 22 percent.  Meanwhile Pawlenty, who has made success in Iowa -- a key part of his campaign -- lagged far behind at only six percent.

Pawlenty on Sunday shrugged off his poll numbers, cautioning that early polls are poor predictors of eventual outcomes.

"I just announced my campaign six weeks ago, so I think it's a little early for that," he said.  "But, more importantly, these early polls are not a good indicator of anything.  If they were, Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States.  They almost never predict the outcome.  And when people get to know my record in Minnesota of, you know, reducing taxes, cutting spending, doing healthcare reform the right way -- no mandates, no takeovers -- doing public employee pension and benefit and pay reform and the like, I think my campaign will do quite well."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bill Daley: President Obama Still Wants a 'Big Deal' on Deficit Reduction

LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- White House chief of staff Bill Daley maintains that President Obama will attempt to reach a "big deal" with Republicans in budget negotiations continuing at the White House today, despite Saturday's statement from Speaker John Boehner saying a smaller agreement is the best course.

"It's rather unfortunate that the speaker has made the comments he has," Daley told "This Week" anchor Chistiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview. "The president is still very committed to solving this deficit problem for the future of America. He's looking forward to the meeting today to lay out once again his case."

Speaker Boehner said in a statement released Saturday night that a larger agreement could not be reached because of differences over tax revenues, and that he would seek a smaller deal on deficit reduction as part of bipartisan negotiations on raising the debt limit.

"I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase," Boehner said in the statement.

But Daley maintains that President Obama is still committed to larger agreement closer to $4 trillion in budget reductions, and that "this is the time to do it."

Daley does believe that an agreement will be reached before an early August deadline when the U.S. would begin defaulting on its debt obligations.

"By the 2nd of August there is no question in my mind that the leaders of America will not allow the first default in the history of the country to occur," Daley said. "I'm confident of that."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Newt Gingrich: 'This is the Obama Depression'

ABC News(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Newt Gingrich labeled the economic situation in the U.S. as the “Obama depression,” just days after a dismal jobs report and signs negotiations on the debt deal are faltering.

“At 9.2 percent now for month after month after month, this is the Obama depression,” Gingrich said on Fox and Friends Sunday morning. “Housing prices have dropped deeper than in the great depression and it’s very clear that under Obama’s job killing policies, we’re not going to get out of this deep unemployment.”

The former speaker of the House praised Speaker John Boehner for making the decision that Republicans will not stand for tax increases.

“Republicans are correct to say first of all, no tax increase period. John Boehner was right. He deserves credit for recognizing that the right position for conservatives is no tax increase. Second, they ought to get the biggest spending cut deal they can by taking what Vice President Biden put on the table,” Gingrich said.  "I think the largest deal possible with no tax increases is fine."

In a National Review op-ed Friday, Gingrich wrote, "Republicans should reject the establishment's demand for a tax increase.  There is plenty of money to be saved from a bloated government without giving Washington one penny of higher taxes."

Gingrich joined fellow 2012 Republican contender Mitt Romney in criticizing David Plouffe’s claim that Americans won’t cast their votes in the 2012 election based on unemployment numbers, saying Plouffe lives in a “fantasy.”

“If you’re David Plouffe and you’ve got a nice job, it’s easy for you to say the unemployment rate doesn’t matter,” Gingrich said. “When you go out and talk to Americans in the rest of the country outside Washington, I guarantee you the unemployment rate matters, the economy matters, the price of housing matters, and in every one of those issues, this Obama depression is real.”

“If David Plouffe thinks they’re going to be able to have 9.2 percent unemployment and not have a very public reaction against the president, I think he’s living in a fantasy.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Debt Negotiations: Can A Deal Be Struck?

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Even before President Obama could return for talks with Congressional leaders on the debt ceiling and deficit reduction, Speaker of the House John Boehner pulled the plug.

The talks are some of the biggest policy discussions in decades, but Speaker Boehner said Saturday night in a paper statement that he is now skeptical that an agreement can be reached in a $4 trillion deal.

"Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes," Boehner said.

Instead of a grand bargain as President Obama has been hoping for, Boehner now says he's concentrating on producing a smaller measure that "still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase."

Boehner said he wants to focus on a smaller $2 trillion deal, as Vice President Joe Biden was discussing with a bipartisan group prior to the president's involvement, as opposed to the $4 trillion deficit cuts deal that was anticipated from today's planned negotiations.

The White House issued a statement soon after Boehner's, saying that while the president sees solving the country's fiscal issues as imperative, the administration sees the Republicans' demands as putting an unfair burden on the middle class and elderly.

"We cannot ask the middle-class and seniors to bear all the burden of higher costs and budget cuts," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement Saturday night. "We need a balanced approach that asks the very wealthiest and special interests to pay their fair share as well, and we believe the American people agree."

While Boehner has been receiving pressure from Tea Party members, who are unwilling to compromise on raising taxes, the White House was also receiving pushback from Democrats wary of potential cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Boehner's Saturday night statement marked a major shift in the tone surrounding the debt negotiations, at a time when it seemed that a bipartisan agreement was imminent. Following Friday's bad jobs report, which showed that the US economy gained only 18,000 jobs in June, Boehner was not alone in calling bipartisan cooperation in reaching a compromise. He was one among many leaders from both parties.

Despite the optimistic tone from both parties last week, it does not seem that the political disagreements will be resolved this weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jobs Report Brings Pain and Blame

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- With the latest jobs report showing that the economy gained only 18,000 jobs in June, while 200,000 people joined the unemployment lines, politicians, economists and job seekers are feeling the pain of the slow economy.

"I felt it in my gut," Mesirow Financial chief economist Diane Swonk said. "It was absolutely an incredible disappointment. This is a stage in the game where we should be seeing jobs picking up at 200,000 pace."

While Washington is one factor in the slow growth, another part of the explanation for people in Viola's situation has to do with employers who say they are afraid to hire in the environment of slow job growth.

As job seekers and business owners are discouraged by the report, many politicians in Washington took to the podium to decry the slow growth.

President Obama said the economy isn't producing as many jobs as are needed and called on Congress to seek compromise on issues like the debt ceiling and deficit, saying in his weekly address "the last thing we can afford is the usual partisan game-playing in Washington."

Some of the issues the administration has pointed to as issues that Congress can address, as it remains at a standstill on the debt ceiling and deficit, are infrastructure spending, extending the payroll tax cut and approving trade agreements.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama's Weekly Address: Working Together to Meet our Fiscal Challenges

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- On the heels of Friday's dismal jobs reports, and with another round of deficit negotiations on the horizon, the president says “the last thing we can afford is the usual partisan game-playing in Washington.”
In his weekly address Obama says that “by getting our fiscal house in order,” Congress will be in a “stronger position” to focus on job creating measures, such as investments in infrastructure and patent reform.
Reaching an agreement to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling will mean “businesses that may be holding back because of the uncertainty surrounding the possibility of a default by the U.S. government will have greater confidence to invest and create jobs,” Obama says.
To do so, the President says, “we need a balanced approach.”
“That means taking on spending in our domestic programs and our defense programs. It means addressing the challenges in programs like Medicare so we can strengthen those programs and protect them for future generations. And it means taking on spending in the tax code -- spending on tax breaks and deductions for the wealthiest Americans,” he says.
While the President admits “that Republicans and Democrats don't see eye to eye on a number of issues,” he stresses that “we agree on some of the big things.”
“We agree that after a decade of racking up deficits and debt, we finally need to get our fiscal house in order,” he says. “We agree that to do that, both sides are going to have to step outside their comfort zones and make some political sacrifices. And we agree that we simply cannot afford to default on our national obligations for the first time in our history; that we need to uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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