President Barack Obama is trying to tamp down all talk of a government shutdown, predicting that Democrats and Republicans will be able to reach agreement after what is expected to be a pitched, protracted battle over spending.
Obama also said he was encouraged by Republican critics who have accused him of failing to demonstrate strong leadership because his budget, released Monday, did not include cuts to entitlement spending.“I’m glad to see Republicans leaders saying, ‘How come he didn’t talk about entitlements?'” Obama said in a press briefing Tuesday, explaining that he expected the GOP reaction to be that he hadn’t “slashed” certain domestic spending programs enough.
A debate over restructuring entitlement programs will occur as part of a larger national conversation over cutting spending, Obama said. The President’s budget blueprint is just the first step in a series aimed at tackling the spiraling deficit.
Democrats have come to Obama’s defense, arguing that Republicans are engaged in a game of chicken over entitlement. They want the President to produce a plan to make painful entitlement spending cuts first even though they have not offered their own ideas for change.
That type of finger-pointing, Obama said, is not helpful to the overall goal of reducing the deficit, although he said he expected a certain amount of “political posturing.”
“This is not a matter of you go first or I go first …,” he said. “This is a matter of everybody looking at where they want to go and ultimately getting into that boat at the same time so it doesn’t tip over.”
Even though Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other House Republicans are throwing out red-meat rhetoric to their base and arguing that cutting jobs is okay as long as overall spending falls, Obama predicted that cooler heads would prevail in the end. He pointed to the example of the tax cut deal he struck with Republicans in December.
“After the midterm elections…the assumption was there was no way you are going to get a tax deal…that it was impossible, but we got it done,” he said.
Obama also defended his administration’s handling of the Egyptian crisis over the last three weeks, which ended with President Hosni Mubarak stepping down and ceding control of the government to the military, which is promising free and fair elections. The President said his administration was on the “right side of history” and had voiced just the right amount of support for Egyptian protesters without appearing to have been meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
“…I think history will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt, that we were on the right side of history,” Obama said. “What we didn’t do was pretend that we could dictate the outcome in egypt – because we can’t.”
“So we were very mindful that it was important for this to remain an Egyptian event, that the United States did not become the issue, but that we sent out a very clear message that we believed in an orderly transition, a meaningful transition, and a transition that needed to happen not later, but sooner,” he continued.