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Negotiators Look for Plan B After Brief Meeting

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
From left: Speaker John Boehner, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with other Congressional leaders for debt talks Sunday, and they agreed to return Monday.

Boehner insisted on a trigger that would generate more spending cuts if tax reform wasn’t enacted, which was also a no-go for Democrats.
 
Democratic aides pinned the blame for the deal’s collapse less on Boehner and more on other Republican leaders and on the pressure from Boehner’s right flank against any kind of deal at all.
 
McConnell put the blame squarely on Democrats in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
 
“We have 9.2 percent unemployment, and their prescription is to raise taxes?” he said. “The president didn’t think that was a good idea in December, and they think it’s a good idea now?”
 
Earlier in the day, White House Chief of Staff William Daley emphasized that the president’s intent is to persuade Congressional leaders of both parties to “send a statement to the world” about America’s fiscal stability by focusing on the $4 trillion deal that looked possible as recently as Saturday morning.
 
“This is a very tough political fight, no question about it,” Daley said on ABC’s “This Week.” “But he didn’t come to this town to do little things. He came to do big things.”
 
After Boehner made his announcement Saturday night that the “best approach” would be to pursue a smaller measure, Democrats attacked Republicans for walking away from a serious challenge, painting the Speaker as a leader beholden to a conservative caucus adamantly opposed to government spending and skeptical of the seriousness of Geithner’s warnings of a catastrophic default.
 
“It’s tough on him. It’s going to be tough on all the leaders up there, but we have no option except to come together,” Geithner said on CBS.
 
Boehner’s walking away from the larger deal, though, preserves a political line of attack for Democrats: that they are the guardians of the social safety net in difficult economic times. Such positioning, particularly in the runup to the 2012 elections, would have taken a hit if they would have agreed to Obama’s deal to alter Social Security and Medicare.
 
And Obama can argue to the public that he tried to rise above the fray by asking all sides to sacrifice, but couldn’t find a willing partner.
 
One top Democratic aide said he believed Obama and Boehner had both been acting in good faith, so they “could go down in history as the second coming of Reagan-O’Neill,” referring to the good political and personal relationship that President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) enjoyed. But, the aide said, the details proved too much for the troops they represented to stomach.
 
John Stanton and Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

Editor's Note:

This article updates the print version to include information from the Sunday debt negotiations between President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders.

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