President Obama Joins Deficit Talks, Hosts Senate Leaders at White House

The president will host Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell at the White House.

ByABC News
June 27, 2011, 9:33 AM

June 27, 2011— -- President Obama intervenes directly in negotiations over the nation's debt limit for the first time today, facing off with Republicans over proposed spending cuts and tax hikes.

Obama is hosting separate Oval Office meetings with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to try to "find common ground" after bipartisan talks broke down last week.

Both sides have reached an impasse over hikes and spending cuts as part of a deficit reduction plan to counteract an increase in the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit.

Republicans are refusing to consider any tax hikes as part of the deal. Democrats insist they won't agree to spending cuts alone as they seek to close corporate tax loopholes and allow some income tax cuts to expire.

"How do you call closing loopholes to all companies that are making billions of dollars of profits, closing up these loopholes that would generate $40 billion, $50 billion in revenue, a tax hike?" said Assistant Minority Leader Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., on ABC's "This Week." "That is not a tax hike."

But Republicans, who walked out Thursday on bipartisan negotiations that had been led by Vice President Joe Biden, strongly disagree.

"Throwing more tax revenue into the mix is not going to produce a desirable result, and it won't pass," McConnell said on "This Week." "Putting aside that Republicans don't like to raise taxes, Democrats don't either."

The White House said last week that officials anticipated the negotiations would come to a head, and that Obama would need to step in.

"It is not as though this negotiating group could simply declare into law what they agreed on," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday. "So the process was always going to have to proceed out of the negotiating room and move forward with the engagement of the speaker, Senate leaders, the House minority leader, the president, et cetera."

Biden, who will also attend today's meetings, signaled in a speech to Ohio Democrats over the weekend that the administration may defend its position in moral terms.

The vice president said it would be "borderline immoral" to advance a deficit reduction plan that cuts Medicare while keeping tax cuts for the wealthy in place.

"We won't support an approach that gives millionaires and billionaires $200,000 tax cuts annually while 33 seniors pay for that with $6,000 per person increase in their Medicare costs," Carney said Friday.

House Speaker John Boehner drew a line in the sand Friday, insisting no matter what arguments Democrats use, any plan that raises taxes or doesn't include spending cuts to offset the corresponding debt limit increase won't pass the House.

"These are the realities of the situation," Boehner said. " If the president and his allies want the debt limit increased, it is only going to happen via a measure that meets these tests."

The showdown continues as the nation approaches the Aug. 2 deadline for extending the debt limit or risk defaulting on loans -- something that could send ripples through the global economy -- if both sides don't reach a deal.