Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

No Debt Deal Imminent, but Discussions Under Way

Bill Clark/Roll Call

The White House and Hill sources pushed back on a report Thursday afternoon that President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are “closing in” on a “major budget deal” to cut into the nation’s deficit.

An article on the New York Times' website Thursday stated that Congressional leaders were informed of the pending deal between Obama and Boehner, but top Hill aides denied such conversations took place.

Still, there were definite signs that the “grand bargain” was back on the table in negotiations between the Hill and the White House.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, an ally of Pelosi’s, said he was not informed of any progress between Obama and Boehner. But the Maryland Democrat did say, “There has been a meeting of the minds, at least, for now” about reaching a grand bargain.

“There are a lot of people who were very skeptical about whether that would happen, but I think both sides remain focused on that even as discussions about Plan B” continue, said Van Hollen, the Budget ranking member and an original member of the bipartisan deficit reduction group led by Vice President Joseph Biden.

One Congressional aide said the administration briefed leaders on the potential for a deficit reduction deal with House Republicans that would not include tax revenue changes but would include the “promise” of a future deal on tax reform that would eventually bring in more revenues. The aide said the potential agreement would include “significant cuts, including to entitlements, but only the promise of revenues in a future, hypothetical tax reform deal. There would be no up-front, guaranteed revenues.”

But that possible deal appeared far from done.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the White House had called during a contentious Democratic caucus meeting Thursday to say there was no agreement. He declined to say which official called him.

“I’ve been told a call came in from the White House during this meeting that there’s no agreement, that they’re working toward agreement,” Reid told reporters after the caucus lunch.

“All I have to say is this: The president has always talked about balance. There had to be some fairness in this, that this can’t be all cuts, there has to be balance. There has to be some revenue,” Reid added.

If a deal was reached between the president and the Speaker, it would not be their first attempt. Obama and Boehner, who met at the White House with Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Wednesday evening, had been working on a sweeping $4 trillion budget agreement earlier this month before Boehner walked away from the table. The Treasury Department has warned the debt limit must be increased by Aug. 2, leaving lawmakers with less than two weeks to craft a deal to avert a potentially catastrophic default.

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