Highlights from the President's Debt Deal Speech

Obama addressed the nation before the last week of debt negotiations begin

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President Obama addressed the American people Monday evening about the impasse the Democrats and Republicans have come to in the debt deal negotiations. Shortly after, House Speaker John Boehner addressed the country and issued a response to the president. National Journal has each speech as they were prepared for delivery. Here's a breakdown of the most important parts of each speech, starting with President Obama's.

He began his speech by addressing the misguided spending of the budget surplus in 2000:

For the last decade, we have spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card.

Then he did his best to sell the $4 trillion deal he wants made:

The first approach says, let’s live within our means by making serious, historic cuts in government spending. Let’s cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Let’s cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars. Let’s cut out the waste and fraud in health care programs like Medicare – and at the same time, let’s make modest adjustments so that Medicare is still there for future generations. Finally, let’s ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their tax breaks and special deductions.

He addressed the problems with the deals that only reduce spending:

The only reason this balanced approach isn’t on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a cuts-only approach – an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all. And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scales, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about – cuts that place a greater burden on working families.

He further contrasted the two plans by comparing the different repercussions of the two deals:
Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask corporate jet owners and oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?
The president mentioned that the 98 percent of Americans making less than $250,000 won't see an increase in taxes if his deal was made. He decided to take the American people on a history lesson of budget battles, and again played the Reagan card.

"Would you rather reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share, or would you rather accept larger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment? And I think I know your answer.”

Those words were spoken by Ronald Reagan. But today, many Republicans in the House refuse to consider this kind of balanced approach – an approach that was pursued not only by President Reagan, but by the first President Bush, President Clinton, myself, and many Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate. So we are left with a stalemate.

Eventually the debt ceiling came up. Obama did his best to explain it in the time frame that he had. Ezra Klein and Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post have a detailed explanation of everything you need to know. Obama challenged the perception that raising the ceiling allows Congress to spend more money. Instead, raising the debt ceiling "simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up." He then challenged John Boehner's plan unveiled today that would cause another default risk six months from now. "In other words, it doesn’t solve the problem."
The Republican plan would kick the problem down the road, and then the whole game would start again. "The House will once again refuse to prevent default unless the rest of us accept their cuts-only approach," Obama said. "We can't allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington's political warfare."
He diverted his attention toward Congress for a moment, instead of the American people watching at home, and said Americans are "fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word." 

And when these Americans come home at night, bone-tired, and turn on the news, all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington. They see leaders who can’t seem to come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans. They are offended by that. And they should be.

The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government. 

When Obama was finished, no more than 10 minutes later Speaker Boehner gave a speech in response to the president's. He trumpeted his past as a small business owner in Ohio, arguing that "most American businesses make the hard choices to pay their bills and live within their means, in Washington more spending and more debt is business as usual." This small town businessman, mind you, wants to cut spending and not increase revenue at all. A recipe for success! 

Boehner went on to argue that the Cut, Cap and Balance bill had bipartisan support (read: five Democrats), and scolded the president for threatening to veto it even before it went to a vote in the House. He failed to mention, however, that it was the Senate that felled the Cut, Cap and Balance bill, and not President Obama. 

He focused his argument around reforming the battle lines from Democrat vs. Republican to Congress vs. The White House. He called Senate Leader Harry Reid's bill "filled with phony accounting and Washington gimmicks," while his "was developed with the support of the bipartisan leadership of the U.S. Senate." 

Boehner took a shot at the president's refusal to sign a short-term deal and his refusal to sign a cuts-only bill, when he said these decisions "should be made based on how they will affect people who are struggling to get a job, not how they affect some politician’s chances of getting reelected."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.