President Obama told congressional leaders at their latest debt-limit meeting that they must come to an agreement on the way forward by early Saturday morning or else they will be called back to the White House this weekend, aides from both parties with knowledge of the meeting said Thursday evening.
At a meeting that lasted 80 minutes, congressional negotiators and the White House finished their review of the work done by a group led by Vice President Biden, said the aides, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting.
At the end, Obama told the bipartisan leaders that, over the next 24 to 36 hours, he wanted them to indicate a path forward that would be able to pass both chambers.
No White House meeting is set for Friday. Instead, leaders are expected to go to their rank-and-file members to discuss the negotiations.
Thursday’s meeting ended at 5:43 p.m. Shortly afterwards, the White House announced that Obama would hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Friday.
Obama told lawmakers that he and his staff would be “on call” during the time leading up to the deadline, aides said..
Congressional leaders and Obama also heard Thursday from Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling on alternative solutions, as well as on several of the administration’s proposed deficit-reduction enforcement mechanisms.
According to a Democratic aide, Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated their support for a “grand bargain.”
Republican aides described the meeting as “cordial,” “businesslike” and “polite.” Democrats said it was “constructive.”
Two Democratic aides noted that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) “didn’t say a single word” throughout the meeting. However, the bulk of the meeting was focused on the presentation by administration officials, and one Democrat described the gathering as “relatively quiet.”
House Republicans and Democrats have set conference meetings at the Capitol for early Friday morning; Republicans will meet at 8 a.m., while Democrats are set to meet at 9 a.m.
No meetings appeared to be scheduled on the Senate side; the chamber is not in session on Friday.
“We’re not having any more meetings this week at least in part because we’re already working here in the Senate on a proposal,” said one Republican aide, referring to efforts underway between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) aimed at producing a “backup plan” on raising the debt limit.
McConnell offered a preview of that plan during a radio interview Thursday evening in which he said that a deficit-reduction committee comprised of members of Congress would “probably be part of the bill as well.” The committee would report back on its work by the end of the year, and the legislation would move through both chambers through fast-track procedures.
McConnell also said in the interview with Hugh Hewitt that he hoped there could be agreement with Obama on a package of spending cuts and that they could be included in the agreement as well. He also renewed his opposition to the inclusion of any tax increases in a deal.
“We do not believe that this level of government is appropriate for America’s future,” he said.
A Republican aide also said that Geithner told participants that, in addition to raising the debt ceiling, Congress must also enact a long-term plan to deal with the country’s deficit and debt.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “used that warning to reiterate his concern that nothing the administration is offering to this point will resolve our debt problem,” the aide said.