“All of a sudden we have co-ownership of a bad economy. That is very bad positioning going into an election,” McConnell said on “The Laura Ingraham Show,” a conservative radio talk program.
But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) rejected McConnell’s plan for resolving the debt stalemate, instead vowing to press ahead with the campaign to roll back government spending.
“Currently, there is not a single debt limit proposal that can pass the House of Representatives,” Cantor said in a statement released just before top lawmakers from both parties resumed afternoon negotiations at the White House.
Those talks ended on an angry note when Obama and Cantor disagreed over the length of the proposed debt-ceiling increase. Cantor had been urging a short-term extension that would require Congress to vote a second time on the unpopular measure before the 2012 election. The president lectured about the need to drop political posturing, saying several times, “Enough is enough,” according to Democratic officials with knowledge of the closed-door meeting.
“The president told me, ‘Eric, don’t call my bluff. You know I’m going to take this to the American people,’ ” Cantor said. “He then walked out.”
But as he left, Obama added: “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Before the blow-up, Obama offered a detailed package of $1.7 trillion in spending cuts “that he was comfortable with,” one of the Democratic officials said, adding that he would go even higher if Republicans would accept revenue increases.
Senior leaders in both parties, however, have begun to look outside the White House meetings for a solution, showing increasing interest in a Senate strategy that could use McConnell’s proposal to temporarily bypass House Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is working with McConnell on this approach. Aides said the two are discussing a strategy that would pair McConnell’s debt-limit proposal with at least $1.5 trillion in spending cuts identified through bipartisan talks that Vice President Biden has led in recent weeks.
The deal also could create a committee of 12 lawmakers who would be assigned with identifying trillions of dollars in additional savings. The panel’s recommendations would be fast-tracked to votes in the House and the Senate and would not be subject to amendment, a process similar to the one Congress uses for closing military bases.
Congressional Democrats welcomed the approach, as did rank-and-file Republican senators. The Obama administration has reacted more cautiously, but views the approach as a last resort.