Bloomberg News

Roskam Says Public to Turn On Obama if Spending Not Cut

December 06, 2012

A top House Republican predicted that President Barack Obama will lose public support for increasing tax rates for the highest earners if he doesn’t also propose spending cuts to achieve a budget deal with Congress.

Illinois Representative Peter Roskam, his party’s chief deputy whip in the House, reiterated that the chamber’s Republicans aren’t willing to back higher tax rates because that would hurt small businesses and job growth. They also are still awaiting a “substantive” proposal from Obama to cut spending, he said.

Speaking at a Bloomberg Government breakfast, Roskam said polls showing voter support for Obama’s position in bargaining with Congress will “quickly turn” if “we don’t deal substantively with the spending side” of the equation.

Frustrated with the pace of negotiations, “House Republicans are feeling like no matter what you put on the table, it’s never enough,” Roskam said.

“There is a Lucy and Charlie Brown feeling here with the football, and House Republicans are not willing to let Lucy pull the ball back,” he said, referring to characters in the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz.

‘Bandwidth’

Obama “has a lot of bandwidth,” Roskam said. “If he were to choose to go back to the themes of 2008” when he first campaigned for president, Obama can be “a transformational figure” by making a deal with Republicans, Roskam said.

“Or he can continue to play what I would characterize as small ball” and “litigate” tax increases “over and over again,” he said.

Republicans are receptive to the idea of “putting new revenues on the table,” Roskam said. Yet “the president is having a hard time hearing ‘yes.’”

Polls released this week show the public sides with Obama in the negotiations with Congress.

By 65 percent to 31 percent, voters support Obama’s push in deficit-reduction talks to allow tax rates paid by families with annual incomes exceeding $250,000 to rise as scheduled at year’s end, said a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Voters, by 56 percent to 38 percent, also said Obama and Democrats would make good-faith efforts to cooperate with Republicans on important issues. Fifty-one percent said Republicans won’t make a similar effort, while 43 percent said the party would, according to the survey by the Hamden, Connecticut-based school.

Blaming Republicans

A Pew Research Center/Washington Post survey taken Nov. 29 -Dec. 3 found that 53 percent of respondents were prepared to blame Republicans instead of Obama and Democrats if a budget deal isn’t reached in time to avert the more than $600 billion combination of tax increases and spending cuts.

“There’s an expectation that the president has created” that “simply letting the top two tax rates go up is going to make the problems go away,” Roskam said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Peter Cook for “Capitol Gains,” which airs Dec. 9. Obama has “been insisting on new spending” as well, the Illinois lawmaker said.

“Polling changes very, very quickly” if voters “recognize this revenue side alone” won’t “make our fiscal problems go away,” he said in the Bloomberg Television interview.

Illinois Senate

Roskam, 51, who served with Obama in the Illinois Senate, said the president, also 51, showed an ability then to compromise when the two worked “together on some very controversial things.”

Since Republicans took control of the U.S. House in 2011, Obama “has not risen to the task of being able to put a large deal together,” Roskam said.

“Now he’s got another opportunity” to strike an agreement with House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, to cut spending and raise revenue through elimination of tax loopholes for wealthy Americans, Roskam said. “All the president has do at this point is say ‘yes’” to that Republican proposal.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Washington at jarowley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net


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