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Silence on Obama Meeting Follows Uproar Over Debt Deal Rumors

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call
Sen. Barbara Mikulski called the reaction from Senate Democrats “volcanic” once they heard news of a possible deficit deal between President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner.

Updated: 9:33 p.m.

Congressional Democratic leaders were mum Thursday after meeting with President Barack Obama, but “volcanic” intraparty sessions earlier in the day could indicate that the leaders were unhappy about a potential budget deal that doesn’t guarantee tax revenue changes.

Upon returning to the Capitol from the White House, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said he had no comment on the session with Obama, who reportedly is in discussions with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to cut a deal worth $3 trillion in savings over 10 years with no upfront tax code changes. When asked whether his silence reflected progress or frustration, the Illinois Democrat responded, “Possibly one or the other.”

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said there would be no readout of the meeting, and David Krone, the chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), had no comment for reporters walking through the Capitol’s carriage entrance moments after the White House session concluded Thursday evening.

The silence stands in stark contrast to meetings with Obama over the past two weeks, when aides were eager to share details, exchanges and barbs soon after their bosses’ conversations had ended.

Senate Democrats were huddled for lunch Thursday with Jacob Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, when the news broke of a possible deal between Obama and Boehner. The reports of the “grand bargain” started filtering into the Mansfield Room, just yards from the Senate chamber, and Senators began getting agitated, worried that Obama was poised to agree to sweeping entitlement cuts with only the “promise” of a deal on future tax code reform.

The contentious Conference meeting came hours before Reid, Pelosi, Durbin and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) huddled with Obama and his top brass at 5:30 p.m. Obama likely had to make a hard sell on whatever package was being discussed, but the more difficult task the president faced would be listening to the top Congressional Democrats relay the serious concerns of their rank and file.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), a 24-year veteran of the chamber, called Thursday’s biweekly party luncheon “volcanic,” and others said the session was one of the most unpleasant in 20 years.

“Many of us were volcanic,” Mikulski said about the reports of an Obama-Boehner deal with no revenues. “You can’t ask us to vote when we haven’t been part of the deal.”

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