The White House concession added to a whirlwind week in which negotiations appeared to be changing daily. At first, leaders were focused on a fallback plan that would raise the debt ceiling but do little to control future borrowing. Then they started considering an ambitious, but complicated, bipartisan strategy for raising taxes and cutting cherished health and retirement programs.
By Wednesday evening, as House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) huddled with Obama at the White House, aides in both parties said a grand bargain to slice $4 trillion out of the federal budget over the next decade was back on the table.
All of those options remain in the mix. “There are multiple trains heading towards the station, and we have to decide,” Carney said before Obama met with the two GOP leaders. “We need to be sure that that fail-safe option is there — even as we pursue, aggressively, the possibility of doing something bigger.”
Republican leaders went on record 10 days ago against the Obama proposal, saying that as long as the deal included higher tax revenue, it could not pass the House. And they maintained that stance after Wednesday’s meeting.
In a brief interview after the White House meeting, Cantor said he remained committed to “not raising taxes” but did not deny that discussions included a larger plan. “Again, there are a lot of things that may or may not be possible, but we’re just trying to drive toward a result right now,” he said.
The mood has changed in the past two days after the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators unveiled a plan to shave at least $3.7 trillion off the deficit. Despite the fact that the plan included new tax revenue by closing loopholes, it received a relatively warm reception in some Republican quarters.
That has given Democrats hope that GOP resistance may be weaker than previously believed to a rewrite of the tax code that would raise significant new revenue — a key goal of negotiations between Obama and Boehner.
Still, the proposal came under fire Wednesday from some key Republicans, including House Budget Committee
Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said it calls for a tax increase of at least $2 trillion over the next decade.
By Wednesday afternoon, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a leader of the Gang of Six effort, said his primary push now is for “an option at some point for the Senate and the House to vote on the plan we’ve put together — which is the only bipartisan plan that’s come from anywhere.”