"Now is the time to deal with these issues. If not now, when?" Obama said at a press conference. "I've been hearing from my Republican friends for quite some time that it is a moral imperative for us to tackle our debts and our deficits in a serious way. I've been hearing from them that this is one of the things that is creating uncertainty and holding back investment on the part of the business community. So what I've said to them is, 'let's go.' "
His remarks flew in the face of demands by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Saturday that negotiators work on a smaller deal that can pass the House.
Boehner's announcement that he would abandon attempts to pass a long-term deal indicated that the conservative wing of his caucus is indeed powerful enough to limit the size of an agreement. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., represented that wing of the party and dominated discussion at tense talks at the White House Sunday evening. The only agreement negotiators and Congressional leaders reached was a commitment to meet again Monday, at 2 p.m.
Cantor is urging the group to adopt the $2.5 trillion framework for reduction that was discussed during talks led by Vice President Joe Biden. Cantor pulled out of those talks two weeks ago, calling on Obama and Boehner to lead negotiations.
The president's press conference, which was announced on Sunday night, is an attempt to gain political cover by convincing the public that Republicans are to blame if leaders fail to reach a deal and the U.S. defaults on its debts. Obama's advisors, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have warned that it would have an immediate and disastrous effect on the economy.