Obama to Congress: Show Me an Outline of Debt Deal

With no meetings scheduled for today, the president returns to a hallmark of his leadership style: letting lawmakers fight it out

"I always have hope," President Obama said today at his press conference on the debt ceiling. "Don't you remember my campaign?"

Obama was asked why he believes talks at the White House will result in a comprehensive deal that both averts a national debt default and improves the country's long-term deficit picture -- talks that have yet to produce any results.

The president's new strategy is to let congressional leaders work out a deal on their own, after presenting them with a window of what's acceptable to him.

"You need, over the next 24 to 36 hours, you need to give me some sense of what your plan is to get the debt ceiling raised," Obama said he has told leaders of both parties in Congress. "If they show my a serious plan, I'm ready to move, even if it requires some tough decision on my part."

About 45 minutes earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned at a live press conference that "we are not going to reduce the deficit and give tax cuts to the wealthy on the backs of our Medicare and Social Security recipients." As he has before, Obama signaled willingness to reduce spending on those programs.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have refused to raise any taxes as part of a deal. Minutes before Pelosi's press conference, House Speaker John Boehner pressed for more spending cuts, "like spending caps, and like a balanced budget amendment" during his own live appearance.

Obama is trying to split the difference, and his pitch to the American people continues to be: We ought to do both. Spending reductions and revenue increases should both be part of the deal.

"I have already said I am willing to take down domestic spending to the lowest percent of our overall economy since Dwight Eisenhower. ... It would require us taking on health care spending, and that includes looking at Medicare and finding ways we can stabilize the system so that is available not just for this generation but for future generations," Obama said.

"And it would require revenues ... student loans, senior citizens, veterans who are trying to get by on a disability check, even as we're trying to make sure that all those programs are affordable, we're also saying to folks like myself that can afford it, that we are willing to do a little bit more -- that millionaires and billionaires can afford to do a little bit more, that we can close corporate loopholes so companies aren't getting unnecessary tax breaks, so that corporate jet owners aren't getting unnecessary tax breaks," the president said.

Obama called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's suggestion, to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts, the "least attractive option," saying, as Moody's did this week, that the America's fiscal problem is twofold.

This strategy of Obama's -- guiding talks, then letting congressional leaders work out a plan on their own -- is a hallmark of his leadership style. It's been called "leading from behind." We've seen him do it on multiple policy fronts, including health care, the biggest initiative of his presidency.

The parties in Congress seem very far apart. Over the next several days, we'll find out if a deal can happen without Obama in the room.

Image credit: Larry Downing/Reuters