As negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House have grown increasingly rocky ahead of a late-July deadline on reaching a debt-limit deal, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday that any differences he has with President Obama are matters of policy, not of personality.
Speaking at an impromptu news conference at the Capitol ahead of a 2 p.m. meeting at the White House, Boehner said that congressional leaders and the administration have been engaged in “very sincere and honest negotiations” and that he and Obama both agree that the debt limit needs to be raised on a bipartisan basis.
“I appreciate what the president said today about the need for us to come together to get this done,” Boehner said. “Our disagreements are not personal. They never have been. But the gulf between the two parties now is about policy. It’s not about process, and it’s not about personalities.”
Boehner’s remarks came hours after Obama chastised Republicans to “eat their peas” when it comes to including tax increases in a final deal. The speaker responded Monday afternoon by reiterating what he said in a statement Saturday night when he announced that a “big deal” on the debt limit would not be possible, citing Democrats’ insistence on including tax increases in the agreement.
“This boils down to two things, and I said it on Saturday night,” Boehner said. “The president continues to insist on raising taxes, and they’re just not serious enough about fundamental entitlement reform to solve the problem for the near to intermediate future. I want to get there. I want to do what I think is in the best interests of the country. But it takes two to tango, and they’re not there yet.”
The gulf between the parties on a deficit-reduction deal remains wide. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has maintained that a $2.4 trillion agreement is possible based on the work that he and five other congressional leaders accomplished in two months of debt-limit meetings with Vice President Biden. But the White House and congressional Democrats have said that the actual figure for budget savings identified by both sides by the time the Biden talks fell apart late last month was in the ballpark of $1.5 trillion. The White House has set a target date of July 22 for an agreement to be worked out.
Cantor took a more confrontational tone than Boehner in a briefing with reporters Monday, dismissing Democrats’ calls for “shared sacrifice” in any debt-limit deal as a political move.
“I think that behind this notion that they continue to say – ‘We want shared sacrifice’ – is, ‘That means we want to raise taxes,’ ” Cantor said. “And we don’t accept raising taxes in an economy like this. ... You don’t leave things the way they are, tax people who have the potential to help people who are hurting by creating jobs, and say that that’s a good result.”
Cantor also emphasized that he and Boehner “are on the same page” in the debt-limit talks, even as the speaker had been holding one-on-one meetings with Obama over the past several weeks aimed at working out a “grand bargain” on the debt limit that could have included a broader effort at tax reform.