Boehner blew up those talks last weekend, citing irreconcilable differences with the White House over taxes and the magnitude of structural changes to entitlement programs. “I want to get there,” he said Monday. “But it takes two to tango, and they’re not there yet.”
That sent negotiators back to the drawing board with just three weeks until Aug. 2, when the government risks defaulting on its obligations without additional borrowing authority. Lawmakers in both parties have refused to raise the debt limit without a plan to restrain the debt in the future.
Obama, Vice President Biden, and the top two leaders of both parties in the House and the Senate are racing to draft such a package by July 22, to leave enough time for what is likely to be a difficult sales pitch to their respective rank and file. Negotiators agreed to meet again Tuesday afternoon, and Obama said they will meet daily — including through the weekend, if necessary — to seal a deal.
Monday’s meeting focused on the only apparent alternative to what many have taken to calling the “grand bargain”: A $2.4 trillion package that was under discussion in earlier talks led by Biden.
Cantor, a party to the Biden talks, said the group was tantalizingly close to its target, which would be big enough to permit House Republicans to agree to an increase in the debt limit sufficient to pay the government’s bills until well after the 2012 election.
But Democrats, and some Senate Republicans, said the consensus was closer to $1.5 trillion — and that assumed a deal to raise taxes on wealthy households that the GOP was unwilling to make.
“When Republicans say, ‘Let’s just go back to the Biden talks,’ it’s important to remember, they walked out of the Biden talks,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Some Republicans have raised the prospect of a short-term deal. But Obama emphatically rejected that option Monday, saying he would not sign “a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day extension.”
A deal is only “going to get harder” as the election approaches, Obama said. “So we might as well do it now. Pull off the Band-Aid. Eat our peas.
“If not now, when?”