On Wednesday, President Barack Obama gave his first press conference since March, speaking from the East Room of the White House. Lasting just over an hour, the press conference’s question-and-answer session covered a wide range of topics, but seemed to focus on criticizing Congress.
Speaking initially about the economy, the President discussed currently stalled bills that he believes Congress should pass, including bills on patent reform, funding for construction jobs, trade agreement reform and extending payroll tax cuts.
Asked about the deficit talks, the President suggested Republicans are unwilling to compromise, while Democrats and the Pentagon have offered up their own “sacred cows.” Of the Republicans, Obama said: “They don’t want a balanced approach.” He went on to stress that entitlements are on the table, but Republicans must accept tax cuts for the wealthy and big businesses.
Of the War Powers Resolution and American involvement in Libya, the President maintained his position that the “operation” is not a war, saying that he does not even have to address the question of Constitutionality. He said that United States troops are not in danger in the Libyan operation, and the controversy is merely Congress’ “cause célèbre”of the moment. He did not clearly address whether he believes the War Powers Act itself to be unConstitutional.
Later, speaking again about the debt negotiations, Obama said, “I’m very amused when I hear, ‘The president needs to show more leadership on this.’” The President then suggested that if the members of Congress cannot reach an agreement about the deficit by the end of the week, then they should stop taking weekend breaks and recesses, saying “I’ve been here.”
“(The members of Congress) need to do their jobs. Now’s the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That’s why they’re called leaders,” Obama said.
Wrapping up his speech, the President referenced the letters he receives from citizens every day, and their accounts of the difficulties facing the average American: “They’re losing their homes; they’ve lost their businesses… Some have not been able to find work for months, maybe a year, maybe a year and a half.”
“Every minute of every day, that weighs heavily on me,” Obama said. “These people are counting on us. They desperately want to believe their leadership is thinking of them.”