President Barack Obama issued an ultimatum Friday to Congressional leaders to present him with a plan to avoid a government default just moments after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pulled out of debt talks yet again over an impasse on revenues.
Obama has summoned Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to the White House for an 11 a.m. Saturday meeting in a scrambled effort to find a way to clear a bill through Congress that would extend the debt ceiling through 2013 before the Treasury's Aug. 2 deadline.
But it clearly hasn't, and won't, be easy. And time is running out. Even top Republican aides conceded that Congressional leaders will need to come up with a framework to present to their Conferences by Monday in order to have enough space to gin up support and go through the procedural red tape required to raise the nation's debt limit.
All parties Friday — especially the president — demonstrated a new level of frustration at yet another impasse. Boehner cited revenues as the root of the second collapse of talks between him and Obama, while Obama asked of Republicans in aggravation, "Can they say yes to anything?"
"We have run out of time," Obama said, noting that he "expects answers" Saturday from the leaders. "They are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default."
Obama was particularly harsh on House Republicans, saying they have "left [him] at the altar a couple times" and that he believes he offered them "an extraordinarily fair deal."
Both Democratic and Republican sources confirmed Friday that the ongoing talks between Boehner and Obama would have resulted in $3 trillion to $3.5 trillion in savings over 10 years, $300 billion in Medicare cuts, $125 billion in Medicaid reform and substantial Social Security reform.
But the GOP was telling a different story, with the Speaker insisting that Obama "refused to get serious" about entitlement spending. Boehner said the president had "demanded $400 billion more" in the form of raising taxes on businesses that create jobs, and "that's the bottom line." He again likened negotiations with Obama to speaking with "Jell-o" and accused the White House of "moving the goal post."
Republican aides said that the administration had insisted on a higher revenue threshold — "They pulled back after the 'gang of six' plan was unveiled," said one GOP aide of the White House — and a "dialed-back" approach to dealing with Social Security.
In a reprise of his late Saturday evening pullout from talks two weeks ago, Boehner suddenly announced Friday evening he was again walking away from debt limit negotiations, distributing a letter to his Members and calling Obama and both Senate leaders to inform them of his decision.
After a week of reported momentum, Boehner said talks with Obama were not nearly as productive as would have been necessary to strike a sweeping deal.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.