ABC's Matthew Jaffe ( @jaffematt ) reports:
In an animated rant that livened up an otherwise subdued press conference, President Obama today lit into Congress for failing to reach an agreement to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling as an Aug. 2 deadline approaches, despite repeated urgings by the administration to do so. At one point he even reprimanded lawmakers by noting that his two daughters manage to do their homework ahead of time, a diligence rarely seen on gridlocked Capitol Hill. “If the United States government for the first time cannot pay its bills, if it defaults, then the consequences for the US economy will be significant and unpredictable and that is not a good thing,” President Obama said of the debt ceiling debate. “We don’t know how capital markets will react, but if capital markets suddenly decide, you know what, the US government doesn’t pay its bills so we’re going to start pulling our money out and the US Treasury has to start to raise interest rates in order to attract more money to pay off our bills, that means higher interest rates for businesses, that means higher interest rates for consumers. So all the headwinds that we’re already experiencing in terms of recovery will get worse. That is not my opinion – I think that’s the consensus opinion. And that means that job growth will be further stymied, it will be further hampered as a consequence of that decision.” “These are bills that Congress ran up,” he noted. “The money’s been spent. The obligations have been made. So this is not a situation – I think the American people have to understand this – this is not a situation where you know, Congress is going to say, ‘Okay, we won’t buy this car or we won’t take this vacation.’ They took the vacation, they bought the car, and now they’re saying maybe we don’t have to pay or we don’t have to pay as fast as we said we were going to. That’s not how responsible families act. We’re the greatest nation on earth and we can’t act that way. So this is urgent and it needs to get settled.” In response to suggestions by prominent Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner that the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department was “artificial,” the president said, “Aug. 2 is a very important date and there’s no reason why we can’t get this done now. We know what the options are out there. This is not a technical problem any longer. This is the matter of Congress going ahead and biting the bullet and making some tough decisions.” If his two daughters can do their homework with plenty of time to spare, the president then asked, why can’t Congress get their work done, too? “You know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time. Malia is 13 and Sasha is 10. It is impressive. They don’t wait until the night before. They’re not pulling all-nighters,” he said to laughter from the assembled press corps. “They’re 13 and 10. You know, Congress can do the same thing. If you know you’ve got to do something, just do it.” But the president wasn’t done yet. After touting his leadership on the debt ceiling issue, pointing out that he’d met with members of Congress repeatedly in recent months, the president took some shots at the Congressional calendar that leaves lawmakers ample time to leave Washington and return to their home states and districts. “They need to do their job. Now’s the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That’s why they’re called leaders. And I’ve already shown that I’m willing ot make decisions that are very tough and you know, give my base of voters further reason to give me a hard time, but it’s got to be done, so there’s no point in procrastinating. There’s no point in putting it off. You know, we’ve got to get this done. And if by the end of this week we have not seen substantial progress then I think members of Congress need to understand we’re going to have to start cancelling things and stay here until we get it done. They’re in one week. They’re out one week. And then they’re saying Obama’s got to step in – you need to be here, I’ve been here, I’ve been doing Afghanistan, bin Laden, and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done.” “Alright, I think you know my feelings about that,” he said with a chuckle.
- Matthew Jaffe