White House Debt Talks Make Little Progress


"The speaker restated the fundamental principles that must be met for any increase in the debt limit: spending cuts and reforms that are greater than the amount of the increase, restraints on future spending, and no tax hikes," the aide said. "The president agreed with the speaker that their previous talks did not produce any agreement. The group agreed to continue talks in the coming week."

There was a lot of talk tonight about what the Biden-led group had actually come up with, in terms of a "medium" sized deficit reduction plan.

The president told those who participated in that meeting to stop suggesting they had achieved $2.3 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.

Biden also said some of the cuts were conditioned on tax increases, so that's another wrinkle to be worked out. The vice president suggested the speaker might move off of his dollar-to-dollar debt limit increase-to-spending cut framework, but Boehner quickly shot down that idea.

Sources said that during the meeting Obama pointed out that Republicans appeared to be walking away from reducing the deficit and Boehner told him he can't go for the big deal because there is not time to do it and no path to gain enough support to pass it through the House.

The Democratic aide said Democratic leaders involved in the discussions -- Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Dick Durbin, Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer -- all still wanted to go for a big deal that includes tax reform along with entitlement reform.

"Democrats continue to put entitlement reform on the table, but Republicans are still refusing to take yes for an answer because of their ideological adherence on [tax] revenues," the aide said.

Another senior Democratic aide said that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl -- both the deputy leaders in their respective Republican conferences -- "were really dominating the conversation" and Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were both "rather quiet" compared to past meetings.

The aide said it appeared that Cantor was speaking for House Republicans, creating an awkward chemistry in the room.

But just before the meeting began, as he was leaving the Capitol to head to the White House, Cantor said he and Boehner are "in exactly the same place."

"We are and we have been," Cantor said. "He's never said he's for tax increases, and the White House just proved that in order to do what it was that we want to do, to restructure the entitlement picture in terms of the fiscal soundness, they need tax rate increases and we're not for that, so the speaker is exactly where I am. We need 218 votes to pass this thing."

The Democratic aide said Pelosi warned Boehner and Cantor that if they pass something through the House that the president can't sign, they should not depend on Democratic votes to help increase the debt limit.

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