Senate and House sources tell me that virtually nothing is happening or is expected to come out of White House talks. When asked what dealmaking might be going on, a House aide replied, “Nothing real yet.” A Senate source with knowledge of the behind-the-scenes work told me that senators are “still talking about what would be added to the debt disapproval plan before it would be considered by the Senate.” As for the White House meetings he added, “They are now completely irrelevant.” I am further told that the modification of the McConnell deal involves putting in place a set of agreed cuts. Would this entice House Republicans? Maybe. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) doesn’t rule it out, saying of the McConnell plan that the House he “didn’t want to give up on spending cuts.” But if the McConnell plan included spending cuts? Well, then we might get somewhere.
Two options are possible. In the first a commission styled on the base closing commission, made up of congressmen and senators, would identify cuts and the House and Senate could stage an up or down vote. The number of such commissioners and the timing of the votes are under discussion. The second option is to graft on top of that a set of cuts ($1.5 trillion or so) identified in the Biden meetings.
Several other bits of data confirm that a deal, if one is to be made, won’t be one over which Obama presides. The verbal assault by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virg.) isn’t designed to make a deal; it’s designed to find a fall guy and an excuse for the collapse of the White House talks.
In addition to Ryan, Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is leaving the door open on the McConnell plan. When Boehner says that he has “no idea” if the McConnell plan could pass, but muses aloud that it is “worth keeping around. . . [because] it might look pretty good a few weeks from now,” he walked the fine line between adhering to the House Republican position (cuts in excess of the amount the debt ceiling is raised) and leaving McConnell and Harry Reid the chance to come up with something that might attract enough votes to pass the House.
And do not rule out the possibility of a House alternative to be introduced very soon. The House will need to have its say, either through its own crafted plan or by amending the Senate plan.
But notice the mention of “a few weeks” by Boehner. Apparently, the speaker of the House doesn’t think much of Obama’s insistence on a deal by Friday. In fact, nothing that Obama says these days seems to make a difference. The White House, in fact, is entirely irrelevant .