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Obama hits the road with debt compromise message

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • At a University of Maryland appearance, he argues for compromise in debt ceiling talks
  • He says calling for revenue increases from the rich isn't a "wild-eyed socialist position"
  • Some Democrats criticize Obama, say that negotiations are too focused on spending cuts
  • He blames lack of compromise partly on safe House districts and a splintered media

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama took his call for compromise on Washington's contentious debt reduction talks on the road Friday, telling an audience at the University of Maryland that politicians need to "wind it back" and stop "demonizing the other side."

He didn't hesitate to lash out at GOP resistance to tax hikes in the marathon negotiations, however, declaring that it's time for "the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations (to) do their part."

"This isn't some wild-eyed socialist position, (and) this isn't about punishing wealth," Obama said. "This is about asking people who have benefited the most over the last decade to share in the sacrifice. I think these patriotic Americans are willing to pitch in if they're asked."

His remarks came shortly after the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the GOP's "cut, cap and balance" deficit reduction plan Friday, voting to set the measure aside and clear a path for further negotiations on what Democrats insist must be a more centrist measure that balances spending reductions and tax hikes.

The Republican plan, which passed the GOP-controlled House earlier in the week, would have tied a debt ceiling increase to sweeping reductions in federal spending, caps on future expenditures and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

While the measure was never expected to become law, holding votes on it allowed Republicans to demonstrate their preference for steps favored by many in the conservative tea party movement.

"Neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this (debt) problem, but both parties have a responsibility to solve it," Obama said. "If we don't solve it, every American will suffer."

Treasury Department officials have warned that a failure to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2 could have dangerous economic consequences, including rapidly rising interest rates and a falling dollar.

While Obama focused his criticism primarily on the Republicans, he is nevertheless facing political heat from congressional Democrats. A number of progressive House and Senate members have been highly critical of a $3 trillion savings plan believed to be at center of talks between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

More liberal Democrats say the plan is focused far too heavily on spending reductions, as opposed to revenue increases.

Asked by one member of the audience why compromise now seems so hard to achieve in Washington, Obama highlighted the splintering of the electorate into increasingly safe congressional districts. The trend, he said, has made congressmen increasingly reluctant to bargain because they are more afraid of primary than general election challenges.

The president also blamed an increasingly splintered media. Democrats are more likely to only read The New York Times and watch cable outlets such as MSNBC, he said, while Republicans increasingly confine themselves to publications such as The Wall Street Journal editorial page and outlets such as Fox News.

If you only hear one side of an argument, he said, "over time, you start getting more dug in on your positions."

CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.