President Barack Obama dialed back his criticism of Republicans Tuesday on the first leg of a three-day tour to sell his deficit-cutting plan, saying a “big philosophical divide” separates the parties but that a deal was possible.
Obama panned Republicans for their plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system for people younger than 55-years old. But in a marked departure from his speech last week announcing his deficit-reduction framework, Obama spent less time attacking the GOP plan directly and more time talking up the merits of his proposal.
His restrained approach at a town hall in Annandale, Va., came a day after Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook on U.S. debt to “negative” – an assessment based in part on the rating firm’s assumption that lawmakers wouldn’t be able to overcome their partisan differences to address the country’s ballooning deficits.
Without mentioning the report, Obama disputed its conclusion, predicting that Democrats and Republicans would reach a compromise.
“I’m optimistic. I’m hopeful,” Obama said at Northern Virginia Community College. “Both sides have come together before. I believe we can do it again.”
At the same time, Obama sought to draw a bright line between the parties, saying Democrats want a plan that trims government spending but not by starving investments in education, energy and infrastructure.
“The big question that is going to have to be resolved is, how do we do it?” Obama said. “And there is — I don’t want to lie to you, there is a big philosophical divide right now. I believe that you’ve got to do it in a balanced way. I believe that you’ve got to, yes, have spending cuts, but you can’t cut things like education or basic research or infrastructure down to the bone.”