Boehner enthusiastically endorsed Obama’s call for a far-reaching plan. Later at the Capitol, Boehner made his own pitch to reluctant Senate Republicans, arguing in a closed-door luncheon that securing the nation’s economic future requires bold action. Boehner also said he expects a deal to come together quickly — or to collapse under the weight of partisan resistance.
“He is always an optimistic man, and he was optimistic today,” said freshman Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who served for three years under Boehner in House leadership. “I think if they can get there, they’ll get there pretty quickly — or they won’t get there.”
Obama praised the meeting as “very constructive” and said leaders would convene again Sunday “with the expectation that, at that point, the parties will at least know where each other’s bottom lines are” and will be able to “start engaging in the hard bargaining that’s necessary to get a deal done.”
Obama said the parties “are still far apart on a wide range of issues.” He continued, “But, again, I thought that all the leaders here came in a spirit of compromise, in a spirit of wanting to solve problems on behalf of the American people.”
Time to solve those problems is rapidly running out. The nation faces default on Aug. 2 unless Congress acts to raise the legal limit on government borrowing, and Republicans and Democrats alike are demanding that any increase in the $14.3 trillion debt limit be accompanied by a significant debt-reduction plan.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) warned administration officials that a deal must be sealed by the end of next week to give congressional leaders enough time to draft the legislation, submit it to congressional budget analysts and marshal the votes before the Aug. 2 deadline, aides said.
Obama and Boehner have emerged as the most enthusiastic proponents of a big deal that would save as much as $4 trillion over the next decade by overhauling the tax code and tackling all the major drivers of federal spending, including the Pentagon and health and retirement programs. But such a plan would be complicated both politically and substantively, and aides said Senate leaders in both parties are skeptical that such a deal could come together in the next few days.
Reid declined to comment on the talks when he returned to the Capitol at midday Thursday, and his Republican counterpart offered only a modest level of support.
“We had a good conversation, and the talks will continue,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters.