Boehner said he believed that he and the others — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — had a plan. He told Obama: We think we can work this out. Give us a little more time. We’ll come back to you. We are not going to negotiate this with you.
Obama objected, saying that he couldn’t be left out of the process. “I’ve got to sign this bill,” he reminded the leaders as they sat in the Cabinet Room off the Oval Office.
“Mr. President,” Boehner challenged, “as I read the Constitution, the Congress writes the laws. You get to decide if you want to sign them.”
Reid, the most powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill, spoke up. The congressional leaders want to speak privately, he said. Give us some time.
This was it. Congress was taking over. The leaders were asking the president to leave the meeting he had called in the White House.
Fine, Obama said. Talk. Knock yourselves out. There is no pride of authorship here, just do it — if you can.
How did it feel, I asked the president in an interview on July 11, 2012, to be voted off the island in his own house?
“I’m not concerned about protocol,” he said. His concern was “an end run around the White House.”
Before the meeting, without telling Obama, the four leaders had tentatively agreed on the framework of a deal. The congressional plan guaranteed that the debt limit would have to be revisited during the 2012 presidential campaign, and Obama was insisting that any agreement would have to take the country through the election.
Around 10 p.m., Obama called Boehner, who was at dinner with friends.
I am not going to sign a bill that requires me to deal with the debt ceiling a second time before the election, the president told him. He was furious.
“Listen,” Boehner said he told Obama, “I understand it. All right? But you’re not going to have a choice. We’ve got an agreement.”
The speaker recalled, “He was moaning and groaning and whining and demanding . . . threatening. . . . He was pretty desperate.” Obama again said he would veto such a bill.
We’re too close to default to reopen the talks, Boehner said. Congress is going to move forward on its own.
Asked recently about Boehner’s description of their late-night call, Obama said, “Listen, anybody who knows me knows I don’t moan, I don’t groan, I don’t whine.” He laughed, “I’m not desperate. I was very angry about how he had behaved, and more concerning was the fact that we were now only a few days from there literally being $5 billion left in the Treasury for the United States government.”