Obama calls for a ‘renewed sense of urgency’ to solve debt problems

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

President Obama said Monday he hopes Standard & Poor's downgrade of the country's credit rating will give lawmakers a "renewed sense of urgency" on dealing with the nation's deficit problems.

In his first public remarks since Friday's downgrade, Obama blamed political gridlock for the nation's setback and insisted the markets still consider the United States a "triple-A country."

S&P's move, Obama said, was "not so much because they doubt our ability to pay our debt … but because after witnessing a month of wrangling over raising the debt ceiling, they doubted our political system's ability to act."

"We didn't need a ratings agency to tell us that we need a balanced, long-term approach to deficit reduction," he added. "That was true last week. That was true last year. That was true the day I took office."

Obama insisted the nation's economic woes are "eminently solvable, and we know what we have to do to solve them."

Still, amid major turmoil on the stock market, Obama stopped short of calling for Congress to come back to Washington from vacation and work on a deficit deal. Instead, he shifted focus to a planned "super committee" in Congress that is set to report its findings by November on how to cut an estimated $1.5 trillion in spending over the next 10 years.

The president said he would lay out his own proposals for spending cuts "shortly" but insisted two steps are crucial: tax reform, including raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and "modest adjustments" to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

"It's not a lack of plans or policies that's the problem here," Obama said, citing proposals previously floated by the Senate's Gang of Six and an agreement he had previously reached with House Speaker John Boehner. "It's a lack of political will in Washington. It's the insistence on drawing lines in the sand, a refusal to put what's best for the country ahead of self-interest or party or ideology. And that's what we need to change."