Despite a flurry of high-level meetings and negotiations this weekend, by Sunday evening House and Senate leaders appeared no closer to a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Instead, both sides were pursuing separate proposals that they thought might be able to pass their respective chambers.
House GOP leaders were reluctant to offer details of a plan, even during a 4:30 p.m. conference call Sunday with Republican Members. The White House called Democratic leaders to a Sunday evening meeting for further talks.
Speaker John Boehner had said he wanted to show progress by Sunday afternoon, but the Ohio Republican failed to meet this goal even as he was continuing to discuss the matter with President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders. Those talks came after the Speaker announced an impasse with the White House on Friday evening.
During the Sunday conference call, Boehner continued to combat mistrust in his Conference. He told his members: “There are no secret negotiations going on. So don’t worry. The path forward is not an agreement between me and the president. The path forward will be a measure that we can stick together on that can reach the president’s desk,” according to a source familiar with the call.
However, Boehner did acknowledge that the GOP’s Cut, Cap and Balance proposal was no longer valid because of Senate opposition, and he said the GOP needs to focus on “what can we pass to protect the country from what the president is trying to do,” according to the source.
Boehner appeared to be moving toward a proposal that would raise the debt limit in at least two stages, or tranches.
Senate Democratic aides indicated that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was preparing to move forward with a bill of his own to raise the debt limit and cut into the deficit, especially if Boehner follows through on his vow to model his plan after the Cut, Cap and Balance bill, which failed the Senate on Friday.
“There is a lot of theater going on at the moment as everyone says what they need to say before doing a deal,” one Senate aide said Sunday afternoon. “I don’t know what that deal will look like, but this all ends with a deal.”
However, the lack of agreement threatened to roil stock markets around the world Monday, and leaders at the outset of the weekend seemed to acknowledge they were scrambling to prevent a panic in trading, including in Asian markets that opened for Monday business on Sunday night.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.