President Obama on Deficit Reduction: 'We Need to Decide by Friday' 

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Amidst discussions of credit ratings agency Moody's putting the U.S. on review for downgrade, President Obama told congressional leaders Wednesday that by Friday they all have to decide what they’re doing: a compromise package to reduce the deficit, or if there’s no willingness to compromise, some other way to raise the debt ceiling and avoid defaulting.

The president made the declaration at Wednesday's deficit reduction meeting in the Cabinet Room, which began at 4:24 p.m. ET and ended at 6:16 p.m.

A Democrat familiar with the negotiations, said that the group went through discretionary and mandatory spending cuts -- more than $1 trillion over 10 years -- that had been discussed in the earlier talks led by Vice President Joe Biden.

The group agreed to return to the table Thursday afternoon to talk about mechanisms for those cuts -- firewalls and triggers -- and possibly to address health care spending (Medicare and Medicaid) and a possible extension of the payroll tax cut.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., raised yet again the possibilty of a short-term fix, which President Obama, seemingly frustrated -- according to Republicans -- shot down, abruptly ending the meeting.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, argued for serious spending cuts, arguing against gimmicks that Washington D.C. has used in the past.

"We're not doing that anymore," Boehner said, according to a Republican congressional aide.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Texas Gov. Rick Perry Faces Federal Lawsuit Over Day of Prayer

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Texas Governor Rick Perry is facing a federal lawsuit as a state/church watchdog group consisting of atheists and agnostics attempts to block his involvement in the Day of Prayer and Fasting organized for Aug 6.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a watchdog group consisting of 16,600 members, filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District Court of Texas to keep the religious event from occurring, arguing it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The legal complaint says the plaintiffs are “nonbelievers who support the free exercise of religion, but strongly oppose the governmental establishment and endorsement of religion, including prayer and fasting, which are not only an ineffectual use of time and government resources, but which can be harmful or counterproductive as a substitute for reasoned action.”
Perry released a video for the event, officially called “The Response,” earlier this week, calling on Americans to “make plans to be part of something even bigger than Texas.”
“Gov. Perry is looking forward to the Aug. 6th prayer event. He believes it will serve as an important opportunity for Americans to gather together and pray to God, seeking his wisdom and guidance as our nation navigates the challenges before it,” Catherine Frazier, deputy press secretary for Perry, told ABC News.
"We expected this kind of legal harassment, but the right of Americans to assemble and pray has been established for over 200 years. We are confident we will be victorious,” Eric Bearse, spokesman for The Response, told ABC News.
Perry has invited President Obama, the nation’s governors and religious leaders to join in the event at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas on Aug. 6.  Over 6,000 participants have registered thus far.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Donald Trump Accuses GOP of 'El Foldo' on Debt Ceiling

Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- He’s not running for president, but Donald Trump still has opinions.

He’s been tweeting quotes from his book The Art of the Deal to House Speaker John Boehner as the top Republican squares off with the White House on debt talks.

“@johnboehner 'Much as it pays to emphasize the positive, there are times when the only choice is confrontation.' The Art of the Deal,” he wrote Tuesday.

“@johnboehner Message for House GOP 'The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it.' - The Art of the Deal,” he wrote last Friday.

But while he wants Republicans to stand strong on spending cuts, he doesn’t want anything cut from Medicare.

“House GOP wants to cut Medicare, Obama took $500 billion from Medicare for Obamacare. Both Wrong!” he tweeted Friday.

But in a new video blog the real estate tycoon and reality TV star says he’s disgusted with Republicans who he suspects are getting ready to fold on the debt ceiling.

“Its hard to believe, but the Republicans look like they’re about to fold again. They talk tough, but they don’t act tough. Its incredible. Look at what’s going on. It’s called ‘el foldo.'

"They are going to do something with the debt ceiling. They could negotiate so strong. They could negotiate so powerfully. Right now they’re losing all their chips just like they did in December. They call it the ‘lame duck’ session, where they gave Obama everything he wanted and frankly they had all the cards. Right now they have all the cards and they’re going to give up their hand. I don’t believe what’s going on. And that’s one of the reasons I’m so disgusted with them."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Five GOP Candidates Reject Controversial Marriage Vow

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --Five GOP presidential candidates have refused to sign a controversial marriage pledge, which asks them to support outlawing pornography, upholding the Defense of Marriage Act and creating a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney as well as fellow candidates Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain have not signed the Family Leader's Marriage Vow Pledge, but Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have.

Romney was the first GOP presidential candidate who refused to sign the pledge.

"Mitt Romney strongly supports traditional marriage but he felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign," Romney's campaign said in a statement.

On the campaign trail in Iowa Wednesday, Tim Pawlenty announced his decision not to sign the pledge, and instead released a video discussing his personal faith.

Pawlenty's decision comes just weeks before the Ames straw poll which he desperately needs to do well in. Both Santorum and especially Bachmann pose real threats to Pawlenty in Iowa.

"I deeply respect, and share, Bob Vander Platts' commitment to promoting the sanctity of marriage, a culture of life, and the core principles of the Family Leader’s Marriage Vow Pledge," he continued. "However, rather than sign onto the words chosen by others, I prefer to choose my own words, especially seeking to show compassion to those who are in broken families through no fault of their own."

The Family Leader's choice of words for their Marriage Vow may not have been the wisest.

The Iowa-based conservative group retracted a portion of the pledge's introduction earlier this week that suggested African-American children were better off under slavery than they are today.

Both Bachmann and Santorum signed the pledge while the slavery comments were still intact.

Presidential candidate Herman Cain on Wednesday became the fifth GOP presidential contender to decline to sign the group's marriage pledge.

Although Cain is making a strong play in Iowa where the group, The Family Leader, is based, he said in a statement that while he supports the organization's "commitment to supporting traditional values" his own position "encompasses their values without the need to sign the pledge."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boehner on Debt Talks with White House: "Like Dealing with Jell-O"

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a meeting with a small group of reporters in his Capitol Hill office Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized President Obama and White House officials for their lack of resolve in negotiations.

"Dealing with them the last couple months has been like dealing with Jell-O," Boehner said. "Some days it's firmer than others. Sometimes it’s like they’ve left it out overnight."

Boehner explained that talks broke down over the weekend because, he said, the president backed off entitlement reforms so much from Friday to Saturday, “It was Jell-O; it was damn near liquid.”

“By Saturday, they’d spent the previous day and a half just going backwards” on reforming entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "The only thing they’ve been firm on is these damn tax increases," the Speaker said.

The Speaker also made it clear that he believes the president waited too long to get personally involved. When he phoned the president Saturday to give him the bad news about talks breaking down, President Obama seemed surprised but not shocked, the speaker said. The phone call lasted 35-40 minutes.

Boehner said that the tax increases the White House has been pushing for as part of what the president calls "a balanced package" cannot make it through Congress. "What the president is asking us to do just won’t pass," he said.

The Ohioan said that he believes the public supports the GOP line in the sand. "The American people want us to hang tough,” he said. White House officials "know they’re not winning," Boehner said.

White House officials of course, dispute this assertion and many others that the speaker made.

One thing Boehner and Obama both agree on: they do not want the U.S. government to default on its debts.

“Nobody wants to go there, because nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Boehner said. “It’s a crapshoot.”

That said, according to both Republicans and Democrats familiar with the negotiating process, the path forward remains unclear.

“We’re in a spot where we need to be,” said a Republican official. "It’s not a bad place for us to be" to get a deal done.

Boehner said that since January he urged him to lock arms with him and "go big" on changes to reduce the deficit. The Speaker said that he will continue to push for major reforms to entitlement spending and the tax code even if those provisions do not end up part of this deal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New 2012 Poll: Romney Leads GOP, but Bachmann Surges, Conn.) -- Michele Bachmann isn’t just making a name for herself in Iowa, she has surged to second place nationally, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney still has a healthy lead at the front of the Republican pack, earning the support of 25 percent of potential GOP voters, according to a new Quinnipiac Poll. Bachmann, who just weeks ago was at 6 percent in the polls, has more than doubled her support ranking -- to 14 percent.

The poll suggests voters are looking for a more conservative option to Romney -- coupled with a name they recognize.

In third and fourth place are two contenders who are not yet even candidates. Sarah Palin ranked third -- but statistically tied with Bachmann -- taking 12 percent of the vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry took 10 percent.

The rest of the GOP field tarries in the single digits: Herman Cain, 6 percent;  Ron Paul, 5 percent; Newt Gingrich, 5 percent; Tim Pawlenty, 3 percent;  Jon Huntsman, 1 percent; and Rick Santorum, 1 percent.

No matter the candidate, however, President Obama would beat them all, according to the poll. Obama would potentially win in a head-to-head with Romney, 47-41, and best Bachmann 50-38.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Campaign, DNC Raise $86 Million in Second Quarter

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Obama campaign manager Jim Messina announced in a video sent to supporters Wednesday morning that the Obama 2012 campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised $86 million, far surpassing their stated goal of $60 million.

Messina said that the sum -- more than $47 million for Obama for America, more than $38 million for the DNC -- came from 552,462 donors.

He said 98 percent of all donations were $250 or less. The average donation was $69.

The campaign maintains it does not take money from political action committees or Washington, D.C. lobbyists.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bachmann on Debt Limit: Obama 'Holding…the Country Hostage'

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann accused President Obama of "holding the full faith and credit" of the country hostage over the debt limit increase, and helped introduce a legislative contingency plan if the country’s top-ranked leaders are unable to reach an agreement to raise the statutory debt ceiling.

"President Obama is holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so that he can continue his spending spree," the Minnesota congresswoman said. "We’re saying, 'President Obama, is your spending spree really that important to you that you would put at risk the full faith and credit of the United States? We’re unwilling to do that.'"

Bachmann is co-sponsoring new legislation with GOP Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Louie Gohmert of Texas that would prioritize federal spending in the event that congressional leaders do not strike a deal to increase the debt limit by Aug. 2.

The trio says that the Payment Reliability for our Obligations to Military and Investors to Secure Essential Stability Act, known as the PROMISES Act, would first prioritize the payment of active duty military salaries and, secondly, authorize the Treasury Department to pay principal and interest on debt held by the public.

“What this bill does is it guarantees that we set a priority to pay our debts and bills,” King said, adding that the trio’s priorities would consume about 15.2 percent of revenue. “There’s still a lot of money left over for the president’s discretion to play political games, but let’s not do so with our military and let’s not let our national -- the full faith and credit of the United States go to pot at the expense of political leverage.”

Bachmann was in campaign form on Capitol Hill, reminding reporters that she has been meeting with real Americans from important presidential primary and caucus states that are early on the 2012 calendar.

“The economy is tanking,” Bachmann said. “This is Washington. We’re all in a bubble here. I’m spending my time in Iowa, and South Carolina, and New Hampshire, and where the real world is. The real world is telling all of the politicians, 'Get your act together, stop being political, stop playing with us. We're not pawns in your game.'"

The PROMISES Act also contains a provision that ensures that members of the Armed Forces are paid without interruption in the event that the government faces a funding gap.

Bachmann has consistently downplayed the potential for catastrophe if a deal to increase the debt limit is not reached, and said she intends to vote against authorizing an increase.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boehner: Balanced Budget Amendment Sets Spending Restraints in Stone

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner released a new video blog Wednesday on his website, expressing his support for the balanced budget amendment that the House of Representatives will consider next week.

“We need to get serious about changing the way we spend money here in Washington, and implementing long-term reforms, like the Balanced Budget Amendment, will make sure we never again face a debt crisis like we do today,” Boehner said. “I’m confident the Republicans will strongly support this legislation, in both the House and the Senate. The question is whether enough of our Democratic colleagues will join us to provide the two-thirds [majority] necessary to send the balanced budget amendment to the states.”

The Ohio Republican said that adoption of a balanced budget amendment would help ensure “that spending restraints are set in stone, and the certainty it provides will help create a better environment for job creation across the country.”

“The House bill that we’ll consider would require the government to spend only what it takes in, and would include limitations on our government’s ability to raise taxes and to increase spending,” he added. “I voted for a Balanced Budget Amendment in the past and I'll support it again now. Since our new majority took charge in the House, we’ve been committed to cutting job crushing spending, and changing the way Congress spends taxpayers’ dollars,” Boehner said. “I've been clear with the president that the House will not grant his request for an increase in the national debt limit without spending cuts larger than the debt limit hike and clear restraints on the future spending by our government.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Brinkmanship in Debt Ceiling Debate Is Path to Striking Deal

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- If you believe all the rhetoric from the past few days, prospects of a deal to stave off U.S. default by the Aug. 2 deadline have dwindled from slim to none.

But leading experts on negotiation tactics say lawmakers’ brinkmanship, while alarming, is actually a healthy characteristic of high-stakes bargaining.

“They are like Asian business brokers,” said Michael Benoliel, director of the D.C.-based Center for Negotiation, likening Congressional leaders to some of his international clients.

“It’s possible they could cut the deal in a week, two weeks, sometimes three weeks before the deadline,” he said.  “But if you’re a negotiator cutting a deal before the deadline, and go to your boss and say, ‘I got a great deal,’ he will say, ‘No, you did not get a good deal because you did not wait until the very last moment.’”

Benoliel, who has advised major multi-national corporations on negotiation strategies, said that in this case the “bosses” are the leaders’ various political constituencies -- and the result of trying to please them too soon is causing temporary gridlock.

“There is a sense that people don’t put everything on the table until late in the game,” he said.

The so-called “deadline effect” will eventually catalyze concession making, says G. Richard Shell,  a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and author of Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiations Strategies for Reasonable People.

“It’s just like a chemical agent in liquid,” he said of the pressure deadlines put on people to compromise.  “The brinkmanship makes us all hold our breath because there’s always a danger that these negotiations won’t come together in time.  But most of the time it works out.”

President Obama and Republican leaders, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have agreed they will not allow the U.S. to default on its obligations.  But have also suggested on separate occasions that the U.S. could still be headed towards just that.  

What makes the current debt ceiling debate unique and particularly volatile, experts say, is that for some stakeholders the deadline effect is not in play:  Many Republicans doubt the warnings from administration that Aug. 2 is a hard date for default.  

“If the Aug. 2 deadline is seen as credible by a majority, with a solid reason behind it, then the parties will conclude their negotiations around it,” said Benoliel. “But if the other side believes it’s arbitrary, then not much will happen.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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