Senator Durbin defends Obama's handling of debt ceiling impasse

June 30, 2011

Illinois' senior U.S. senator defended President Barack Obama's handling of the federal budget impasse on Thursday, as senators are preparing to skip their planned July Fourth recess to continue negotiating about raising the nation's debt ceiling.

Speaking on WBEZ's 848, Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said Mr. Obama is butting up against the realities of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a looming August 2 deadline, when the U.S. Department of the Treasury says the federal government will go into default.

"The fact is, the president can not say from the White House, 'All right, Congress, this is what you're gonna give me,'" Durbin said. "[The] Republicans have a voice in it, and [Republican House Speaker John] Boehner is a major player in it."

Representative Boehner, from Ohio, has said that negotiations will drag on until the president and Democrats stop demanding that tax increases be a part of any deal to raise the amount of money the U.S. can borrow. In a press conference Wednesday, Mr. Obama defended his call to raise revenue by hiking taxes on wealthy Americans and ending tax breaks for corporate jet owners.

Durbin, who has been part of a small group of senators working to reach a budget deal, said he supports Democrats' call plans to close certain tax loopholes. But he said he does not want to cut Medicaid and Medicare benefits too drastically in exchange for raising revenue, as some Republicans have suggested.

"The idea of cutting benefits under Medicaid, at this point, in order to get the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes is an awful bargain," Durbin said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has said any plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling should be accompanied by a package of spending cuts and expenditure caps.