WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Tuesday a just-passed bill to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and cut spending was a first step toward ensuring the United States lives within its means but that more was needed to rebuild the world’s largest economy.
Speaking at the White House, Obama made clear he expects tax reform to emerge from deliberations by a new committee of Democrats and Republicans to be established by the legislation and that a “balanced approach” in which the wealthier pay more taxes is needed for more deficit reduction.
Obama, a Democrat, said uncertainty from the bitter debt debate had been an impediment to business but the economic recovery also suffered from unforeseen problems such as the Japan earthquake and tsunami.
Obama urged Congress to pass stalled trade bills and said he wants tax cuts for the middle class and unemployment benefits extended.
“Both parties share power in Washington. And both parties need to take responsibility for improving this economy,” Obama said shortly after the Senate passed the debt bill and sent it to him for signing into law.
“I’ll be discussing additional ideas in the weeks ahead to help companies hire, invest and expand.”
Obama chided U.S. political leaders for taking so long to resolve the impasse over the debt ceiling, bringing the country close to an unprecedented default.
“We have seen in the past few days that Washington has the ability to focus when there is a timer ticking down and when there is a looming disaster,” he said. “It shouldn’t take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe, to get folks in this town to work together and do their jobs.”
Obama also urged the Senate to break an impasse that has resulted in a partial shutdown of federal aviation programs.
“There is another stalemate in Congress right now involving our aviation industry which has stalled airport construction projects all around the country and put the jobs of tens of thousands of construction workers and others at risk because of politics,” he said.
“It’s another Washington-inflicted wound on America and Congress needs to break that impasse now, hopefully before the Senate adjourns, so these folks can get back to work.”
Reporting by Jeff Mason, Laura MacInnis and Steve Holland; Editing by John O'Callaghan