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Obama, GOP radio duel over government debt ceiling

Saturday’s radio addresses by President Obama and a Republican legislator offered a preview of the challenge the White House faces next week in restarting stalled talks over raising the federal debt ceiling and averting an August government shutdown.

Congressional Republicans last week pulled out of debt reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden citing their opposition to any tax increases being included in a final plan. House Speaker John Boehner warned of “job killing tax hikes.” White House spokesman Jay Carney countered that “millionaires and billionaires and special interests” should have to contribute to cutting the deficit.

On Monday, President Obama is slated to meet separately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada and with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky to try and restart the talks. So it is not surprising that the Saturday addresses from both parties continued the on-going debate about government fiscal policy.

President Obama’s address was recorded Friday during his trip to Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh. Speaking in front of a display of robots used to find leaks and breaks in water and sewer pipes, Obama said “advanced manufacturing can help spur job creation and economic growth across the country.”

His remarks on the debt ceiling debate – and related efforts to trim the massive federal budget deficit – were pointed.

“I am committed to working with members of both parties to cut our deficits and debt,” the president said. But he added, “We can’t simply cut our way to prosperity.”

Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina gave the Republican response, criticizing the Obama administration for wanting to raise taxes. Ellmers, who owns a small medical practice with her husband, accused the Obama administration of wanting to “stay the course, keep spending money we don’t have, and raise your taxes – all in the name of ‘stimulus.'”

She added that “The job creators we hear from, they don’t have their hand out. They don’t want a bailout. All they ask us to do is get government out of the way.”

The economy’s continuing weakness remains a major concern for the Obama administration.

Weak economic growth, high unemployment, and a lagging housing sector are major factors in the president’s poor approval ratings. The latest Real Clear Politics average of major polls shows 47.7 percent of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing while 47 percent disapprove. An approval rating under 50 percent generally indicates tough re-election prospects for an incumbent.

The war of words over economic policy will continue Saturday evening when Vice President Biden speaks at the Ohio Democratic Party’s annual state dinner. Biden has been a frequent defender of the administration’s economic policies, speaking of the economic challenges his family faced when he was a boy.

“He obviously has deep, deep roots in the industrial Midwest running from Pennsylvania right across and he’ll be very valuable there,” the Associated Press quoted Obama strategist David Axelrod as saying in Chicago last week.

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