House Speaker John Boehner laid down an ultimatum for President Obama today over lunch with congressional leaders, telling the president that as long as he serves in Congress, he will not allow the debt limit to be increased without serious reforms.
Boehner asked the president to clarify whether he wants Congress to pass an increase to the debt ceiling that does not include any spending cuts to reduce the deficit, according to a readout provided to reporters by the speaker's office. After the president answered in the affirmative, Boehner laid down the law according to him.
"As long as I'm around here, I'm not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt," Boehner told Obama, according to an aide close to the speaker.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also attended the lunch.
Oddly, the readout ended by revealing that "the speaker was very pleased with the sandwiches served."
Asked what kind of sandwich Boehner enjoyed, a senior aid to the speaker declined to specify beyond confirming "it was Taylor [Gourmet] and he loved it."
According to a White House Pool note, the president ordered a 12-inch Spruce Street hoagie for himself, which included roast turkey, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and sharp provolone. The tab for all the leaders' sandwiches from Taylor Gourmet, which specializes in "delivering the finest hoagies" in the area, according to its website, totaled $62.79.
The president began the meeting by laying out some of his policy goals, such as his "to-do list" for Congress, which includes clean energy manufacturing, a veterans' job corps and tax credits for small business jobs. But the bulk of the meeting was spent discussing other issues, including the next debt limit increase and the looming expiration of current tax rates, according to the readout.
Boehner also asked the president for his plan to deal with a number of expiring tax provisions at the end of the year, and he pressed the president to approve the job-creating Keystone pipeline energy project.
The speaker also asked Obama to encourage the attorney general to provide all of the information Congressional investigators have sought about the Fast and Furious 'gun walking' operation. That operation was designed to track illegal weapons moving from the U.S. into the hands of drug cartel leaders in Mexico, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost track of hundreds of weapons; those weapons have been linked to at least one murder, that of a border patrol agent.
Aides would not reveal how the president reacted to the speaker's requests.