ABC News' David Kerley reports:
White House officials thought, just hours ago, that they were “very close” to a deal with Republican House Speaker John Boehner. But all of the sudden, the speaker wasn’t returning the president’s phone calls.
“If Speaker Boehner had called back, Americans would have had a deal,” a White House official told reporters after the president announced Boehner had pulled out of negotiations.
These officials said there were “many zones of agreement,” and that cuts to entitlement programs, other than a small disagreement over Medicaid, were “settled.”
The White House said congressional staffers were still calling today to negotiate details, but the speaker was not talking to the president.
On Thursday afternoon, Obama talked with the speaker. The president called again in the evening. That call was not returned.
The White House said the speaker’s office emailed at 3:30 p.m. Friday and said the speaker would call at 5:30 p.m. The president’s office called immediately and asked to talk to the speaker. Boehner did not come to the phone, but did call 5:30 p.m., telling the president he could not continue to negotiate.
According to the White House officials, there were only three major outstanding issues – the president asking for $400 billion in additional revenue over 10 years, how deep cuts in Medicaid would be, and the speaker’s request that the individual mandate in the health care reform law be eliminated if the government could not approve all elements of the deal.
On the revenue side, officials said the two sides had agreed to an increase of $800 billion, which would come from tax reform. The president wanted another $400 billion in revenue, but the officials say he told Boehner that was negotiable.
The White House said the sides had agreed to $1.2 trillion in cuts, including $250 billion to Medicare and more than $100 billion in cuts to Medicaid. Some of those savings would come from raising the retirement age for Medicare from 65 to 67 years old.
To force both sides to take action on the proposed deal, the two sides discussed several “triggers.” If revenues were not increased, the Bush tax cuts for the rich would be “decoupled” from the rest of those cuts and allowed to expire. If entitlement cuts were not enforced, the speaker, according to these officials, added a trigger just this Wednesday. That trigger would have eliminated the individual mandate in the president’s controversial health care reform law. The president told Boehner that trigger had to be eliminated.
Despite the strong words, the White House still holds hope for this “big deal,” saying it was the speaker, not the president, who walked away from the table.