Obama, Boehner Duel on the Airwaves

The president and the speaker reiterated their stances before a national audience, as time winds down on the Treasury's Aug. 2 deadline

President Obama warned the nation on Monday night that those who are blocking an increase in the federal debt ceiling are risking "a deep economic crisis," while House Speaker John Boehner shot back immediately, telling the president "not so fast" as Washington's high-stakes debt showdown reached a new and ominous level with neither side blinking less than eight days before the deadline arrives.

The president, speaking from the East Room of the White House, was stern and somber as he sought once again to persuade the country - and more specifically the Republicans who rule the House - that the full faith and credit of the United States should not be held hostage to political demands.

Repeatedly, the president used the words "danger" or "dangerous" to hammer home that this is not just another Washington political spat but one that could slow job creation, raise interest rates, and shake global faith in the U.S. economy.

In turn, the speaker played down the consequences, laying the crisis solely at the feet of the president and saying all he has to do to end it is embrace the GOP bill in the House. "If the president signs it, the crisis atmosphere he has created will simply disappear."

But Obama made clear he is not about to surrender to Republican demands. "There are still paths forward," he declared. But one of them is not Boehner's preferred bill. His preferred path now that more ambitious grand bargains have been shot down is a plan backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. In his speech, he called that "a plan to avoid default, which makes a down payment on deficit reduction and ensures that we don't have to go through this again in six months."

He said he has told congressional leaders "that they must come up with a fair compromise in the next few days." If they fail, the consequences are dire, he said. But the president didn't seem optimistic that his words would sway Republicans - the very reason he asked for the prime time broadcast, in the hopes he could go over the heads of Congress and appeal to the country.

"Unfortunately, for the past several weeks," Obama said, "Republican House members have essentially said that the only way they'll vote to prevent America's first-ever default is if the rest of us agree to their deep, spending cuts-only approach. If that happens, and we default, we would not have enough money to pay all of our bills - bills that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans' benefits, and the government contracts we've signed with thousands of businesses."

Presented by

George E. Condon Jr.

George E. Condon Jr is a staff writer (White House) with National Journal.

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