Obama Promises Democrats No Debt Limit Fight

By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)

(CBS News) As Congress approaches a set of fiscal deadlines, President Obama on Wednesday personally assured House and Senate Democrats that he will not negotiate over the debt limit.

"We have got to stop lurching from crisis to crisis, in his words and our words," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, said with respect to the debt limit after the Senate Democrats met with the president.

"The president didn't beat around the bush on anything," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, adding that Democrats are united focusing all their energy on job creation.

The White House has said repeatedly that Congress must extend the nation's borrowing authority when the Treasury Department hits the current debt limit this fall, or risk letting the nation default on its loans. Along with extending the debt limit, Congress must also come together this fall to extend funding for federal operations or let the government shut down. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill will quickly be confronted by both fiscal deadlines in September, after they return from their month-long August recess.

In two separate meetings with House Democrats and Senate Democrats, Mr. Obama told lawmakers that he doesn't think Republicans will ultimately allow a government shutdown or let the nation default. He said that he will look at all proposals but will not negotiate on debt limit, according to a House Democratic leadership aide.

Heading from the meeting with House Democrats into a second meeting with Senate Democrats, Mr. Obama told reporters he was on Capitol Hill to talk about "jobs, middle class, growth."

Reid said that "on sequestration, which is part of the discussion we had, he will not protect defense at the detriment of non-defense spending." Some Republicans have proposed raising Defense spending to pre-sequestration levels while keeping spending for other programs at the levels put in place after the steep sequestration cuts.

In the House meeting, Mr. Obama gave opening remarks for about 10 minutes, urging Democrats to talk to their constituents this August about keeping the focus on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and passing immigration reform. He took questions for the majority of the meeting, including a question -- which one Democrat described as hostile -- about whether the president would appoint former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers to serve as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

"He did make -- I don't want to say a defense" of Summers, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after the meeting. "He just spoke about what he thought about Larry Summers... how important this decision is."

The president gave no indication of who he would actually nominate, according to members who attended the meeting, making clear that no decision has been made yet and that a diverse group of candidates will be considered.

Pelosi said there is an "understanding whoever the president chooses will be received with great respect."

Reid similarly said, "Whoever this president selects, this caucus will be for that person, no matter who it is." Reid called Summers a personal friend and "a very competent man" while acknowledging that some Senate Democrats have publicly raised objections to his potential nomination.

Democrats said Mr. Obama reaffirmed his commitment to campaigning for House Democrats through the 2014 midterm elections and said it was important for Democrats to regain the majority and have Pelosi once again serve as speaker of the House. A Democratic aide said the president described Pelosi as a "fearless leader."

House Democrats presented Mr. Obama with a dark chocolate birthday cake -- he turns 52 on Aug.4 -- with a large presidential seal and the message, "Happy Birthday, Mr. President."

"Secret Service said no candles," Pelosi announced. Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., led the group in singing "Happy Birthday."

CBS News' Walt Cronkite contributed to this report.

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