Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

No Debt Deal Imminent, but Discussions Under Way

Bill Clark/Roll Call

“While we are keeping the lines of communication open, there is no ‘deal’ and no progress to report,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “We are still focused on the ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ bill that passed the House with bipartisan support, and hope the Senate will take it up as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for Cantor also denied the report.

The news of the second iteration of the Boehner-Obama deal broke while White House spokesman Jay Carney delivered his daily briefing, Senate Republicans hosted a press conference on their pending Cut, Cap and Balance bill and Senate Democrats lunched on the second floor of the Capitol.

Carney echoed Hill sources in rejecting the closeness of an agreement.

“The report that we are close to a deal is incorrect,” Carney said. “There is not a participant in these negotiations of either party or either house that does not know what the general framework of a larger deal would look like ... the parameters of a significantly sized deal are clear.”

But Carney cautioned that Obama and Boehner are not the only players to consider. “There’s not just one dance partner here — this is something that has to get through both chambers of Congress. It’s not just a matter of getting these two men to agree,” he said.

The White House spokesman expressed hope that a “grand bargain” would still emerge. The possibility of a major deficit reduction deal appeared to find renewed momentum this week when Obama expressed optimism about a broad deal outlined by the Senate’s “gang of six.”

Obama indicated he would prefer such a deal over the fallback option on which the Senate might act. Senate leaders are tentatively slated to put the legislative gears in motion this weekend on a package crafted by Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would allow Obama to extend the debt limit three times through the 2012 election, but Congress could vote on resolutions of disapproval. However, that proposal would not mandate the deep savings lawmakers on both sides of the aisle would prefer, even though Obama would be required to identify offsets for lawmakers.

Although representatives on all sides were careful to say there was no progress to report, small signals across the Capitol indicate there could be some movement toward some form of agreement, no matter the size. White House Legislative Director Rob Nabors and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew were on the Hill huddling with lawmakers Thursday, after a day of various meetings between the leaders with the president and among themselves.

Lew also downplayed talk of a deal, as well as reports that the agreement in the works would not include tax changes.

“We’ve been clear that revenues have to be part of any agreement,” Lew told reporters.

He said multiple conversations are going on at various levels to try and resolve the issue.

Ultimately, however, it is unclear what has changed — especially within Boehner’s conservative caucus — that would make a sweeping deal that includes tax reform more palatable than it was two weeks ago. Boehner did meet twice with his freshman Members on Wednesday — first with the whole group in a formal meeting and then with a smaller group later that night, reportedly over pizza.

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