Top House and Senate leaders met in Speaker John A. Boehner’s office Thursday morning to try and hash out a path forward on this fall’s fiscal fights — but its clear the meeting was a beginning, not an end.
It was the first meeting on fiscal issues in months between Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and it comes as Boehner’s plans for a stopgap spending bill are in limbo following a revolt in his conference. Boehner also planned to lay out his demands for another round of spending cuts as his price for raising the debt ceiling.
At a noon news conference Reid said no deal was at hand.
“Their direction is a direction to shutting down the government,” Reid said of the House GOP, a point he said he made during the meeting.
Boehner told reporters at his own news conference that he reiterated his push for Democrats to find the “courage” to work with Republicans on cutting spending. “It’s time for us to deal with the problem,” the Ohio Republican said.
“We all know what the problem is,” he continued, citing the retirement of the baby boom generation.
Pelosi called the meeting “constructive” but she did not indicate a deal had been reached.
“Progress is made anytime you come together to have a conversation, understand each other in a respectful way, so I thought it was a useful meeting,” she said. “It was I think a respectful, constructive meeting in terms of understanding what the impact is of certain actions that we might take.”
McConnell said in a statement that Congress needs to keep to its previous agreements and reiterated his opposition to tax hikes as part of any deal.
“We need to start by keeping the cuts we’ve already agreed to. It’s time to get serious about the challenges we face and reposition America for growth and prosperity in the 21st century,” he said.
Ahead of the meeting, Reid lamented Boehner’s difficulty in passing his bill, as well as Republican senators offering extraneous amendments to an energy efficiency bill.
“The anarchists have taken over,” he said. “They have taken over the House. Now they’re here in the Senate. The Speaker couldn’t pass a simple CR today. ... We’re in a position here where people who don’t believe in government — and that’s what the tea party is all about — are winning. That’s a shame.”
Reid also reiterated President Barack Obama’s vow not to negotiate over the debt ceiling.
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.