WASHINGTON (AFP) – U.S. President Barack Obama hits the road this week to drum up support for his economic program as rival Republicans warn of a new showdown over the government’s debt ceiling.
Stymied by hostile Republicans in Congress and faced with the danger of his Democratic Party losing control of the Senate in next year’s mid-term elections, Obama has returned to the core of his domestic agenda.
“I’ve got a little over 1,200 days left in office,” he said Monday, in a preview address to political allies in Washington.
“I’m going to spend every waking minute of every one of those days thinking about and then acting upon any good ideas out there that can help ordinary Americans succeed,” he promised.
But Obama could face another fiscal standoff with Republicans who have warned they will not extend the government’s borrowing authority without parallel spending cuts.
“We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending. It’s as simple as that,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters on Tuesday.
“I believe the so-called Boehner rule is the right formula for getting that done,” he added, referring to the rule that matches new debt authority with dollar-for-dollar spending cuts.
Obama and his fellow Democrats have refused to discuss such an exchange, accusing Republicans of playing politics with the country’s credit rating.
“We are not negotiating on the debt ceiling,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. “I don’t know how many more times we need to say that.”
Obama hopes to negotiate a new fiscal compromise by October — the end of the current fiscal year — in order to head off the threat of a government shutdown that could further damage the already sluggish economic recovery.
Last month, the International Monetary Fund warned that cuts already imposed on U.S. government funding had been “excessively rapid and ill-designed” and cut its annual U.S. growth forecast for this year to a meager 1.75 percent.
The cuts were imposed when Obama failed to reach a budget deal with the bitterly divided Congress. Republicans control the lower house, while Democrats hold a slender majority in the Senate.
The White House would like to replace the austerity measures it says are harming the economy with a mixture of smaller spending cuts and tax hikes on the wealthy, anathema to Republicans.
But the failure of the administration’s recent attempt to toughen gun control legislation in the wake of a series of shooting massacres has shown up its weakness in the face of congressional opposition.
The White House says this week’s speeches in Illinois, Missouri and Florida will include new ideas to restart the economy and create jobs, as well as a defense of Obama initiatives that are already stalled in Congress.
“The ground beneath our feet is a little firmer than it was, but we’ve got a long way to go before middle class families feel secure,” Obama said.
But Republicans are dismissive.
“Yes, on Wednesday, the president will deliver his umpteenth iteration of a speech the White House concedes he’s been giving for eight years now,” said Boehner’s spokesman Brendan Buck.
On Wednesday, Obama will give an address at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and then at the University of Central Missouri, in Warrensburg.
On Thursday he heads to Florida, where he will give a speech at the Jacksonville Port Authority.
Photo Credit: AFP/Drew Angerer