Brief Debt Meeting Ends With Pledge to Return Monday

Posted July 10, 2011 at 8:35pm

Updated: 10:16 p.m.

President Barack Obama continued to push for a grand debt reduction package at a 75-minute meeting Sunday with Congressional leaders, but they only agreed to gather again Monday, according to Hill sources.

Both parties are scrambling for an alternative plan to reduce the deficit and raise the debt ceiling since Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) decided Saturday to walk away from the $4 trillion debt deal sought by Obama. When asked before Sunday’s meeting whether the negotiators could hash out a deal in 10 days, the president responded, “We need to,” according to a pool report.

Democrats at the meeting pressed for deficit reduction from both taxes and spending cuts, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said any new revenues must be offset with tax cuts instead of contributing to their deficit goal, according to the Hill sources.

Still, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed hope for a “large bipartisan agreement” that protects Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries, the middle class, and economic growth. Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said the Nevada Democrat “is committed to meeting every day until we forge a deal.”

Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said Democrats are blocking entitlement reform while demanding more than $1 trillion in tax increases.

“The members will meet again tomorrow, though it’s disappointing that the President is unable to bring his own party around to the entitlement reform that he put on the table,” Stewart said in a statement. “And it’s baffling that the President and his party continue to insist on massive tax hikes in the middle of a jobs crisis while refusing to take significant action on spending reductions at a time of record deficits.”

A Boehner aide said the Speaker told the group that the “most viable option at this time for moving forward” is a package based on the work started by bipartisan negotiators led by Vice President Joseph Biden. Boehner restated that spending cuts must exceed the size of the debt limit increase and that there must be restraints on future spending, and he ruled out tax hikes.

But other sources familiar with the meeting said Boehner spoke little, leaving much of the talking to Cantor, who was a member of the Biden talks but withdrew last month.

Obama pushed back when the Biden group was mentioned Sunday, saying Boehner had told him it would be a tough sell in his Conference, according to one Hill source.

The president also reiterated he would not sign a short-term debt limit extension, sources said.

The White House also announced that Obama will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Monday.