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House GOP, Democrats Still at Opposite Ends on Debt Bargaining

Douglas Graham/Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner (left), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (right) and other Congressional leaders held debt limit talks with President Barack Obama on Thursday.

Updated: 7:10 p.m.

House Democrats continued to dig in their heels against cuts to Social Security and other entitlement programs Thursday as Congressional leaders and the White House continued to search for a bipartisan deal to increase the debt limit.

But while liberals spoke out to their Democratic leaders during a whip meeting earlier Thursday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterated that Republicans “would not increase the debt limit without real cuts in spending and real changes to the way we spend the American people’s money.”

Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), along with Senate leaders, met for nearly two hours with President Barack Obama on Thursday, and Pelosi will meet privately with Obama in the Oval Office on Friday, according to the White House.

While Obama described Thursday's meeting in positive terms, a deal that could win 218 votes on the House floor has yet to surface. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told reporters that he predicted the chances for such an agreement were “50-50,” adding that Boehner seemed encouraged when he addressed the Republican Conference on Thursday.

Following the Conference meeting, Boehner maintained that Republicans would not support tax increases.

“I have also made clear that we are not going to raise taxes on the American people,” the Ohio Republican told reporters after the weekly meeting. “We are not going to raise taxes on the very people that we expect to reinvest in our economy and to help grow jobs.”

While Republicans have held strong against increasing tax revenue, House Democrats have stood just as steadfastly against cuts to entitlements for the poor and elderly.

The impasse became more salient amid reports that Obama is floating possible cuts to Social Security in order to lure GOP votes for a debt deal.

“The very idea that in order to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, that seniors and middle-class people would be the ones who have to pay the price, to me is irresponsible and unacceptable,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

A House Democratic aide acknowledged “there was a lot of discussion about Medicare and Social Security,” and that Members are “frustrated with the White House because they don’t know what’s going on.” The House Democratic Caucus will hold a meeting at 12:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the negotiations.

Pelosi bluntly warned Thursday that Democrats would not agree to a deal that includes cuts to Social Security and Medicare. When asked whether including those sorts of provisions would compromise Obama’s “Grand Bargain,” Pelosi said simply, “Yes.”

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