Boehner Abandoning Debt Talks
Updated: 6:24 p.m.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Friday night he was walking away yet again from debt limit negotiations with President Barack Obama and now intends to begin work with Senate leaders, just days outside an Aug. 2 government default deadline.
Top Republican aides conceded at the time of Boehner’s announcement that Congressional leaders will need to come up with a framework to present to their Conferences by Monday in order to have enough time to gin up support and go through the procedural red tape required to raise the nation’s debt limit.
After a week of reported momentum, Boehner said talks with Obama were not nearly as productive as would have been necessary to strike a sweeping deal.
“A deal was never reached, and was never really close,” Boehner wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter to be distributed Friday evening to his Conference. “The president is emphatic that taxes have to be raised.”
Obama said in a statement at the White House that Boehner phoned him around 5:30 p.m. to indicate “that he was going to be walking away from negotiations.”
“I’ve been left at the altar now a couple of times,” Obama said. He challenged Boehner to find out if his Republican Party is willing to work with him: “Can they say yes to anything?”
Obama said the plan that was under discussion “was an extraordinarily fair deal.”
“If it was unbalanced it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue,” the president said, adding that he took “heat” from his own party.
Obama called on Congressional leaders to show up at the White House at 11 a.m. Saturday and said, “I expect them to have answers.”
“We have run out of time,” Obama said. “They are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default.”
“The president is adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs,” Boehner’s letter said. “For these reasons I have decided to end discussions with the White House and begin conversations with the leaders of the Senate in an effort to find a path forward.”
Like the first breakdown of talks between the Republican leader and Obama weeks ago, Boehner cited an impasse over revenues — “They pulled back after the ‘gang of six’ plan was unveiled,” said one GOP aide of the White House — and a “dialed-back” approach to dealing with Social Security.
Boehner had been working since last week with the Obama administration, beginning with a meeting last Friday with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House Chief of Staff William Daley, to close in on a “grand bargain” worth $3 trillion to $3.5 trillion, GOP aides said.
Congress likely will now have to move toward its plan of last resort — a framework from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which would raise the debt ceiling in a series of three votes through the 2012 elections.
The Senate has adjourned for the weekend, but leaders could begin the process of bringing a bill to the floor as soon as it reopens. A reporter asked Obama if he was confident that somehow the group would strike a deal.
He said yes, because, “I cannot believe that Congress would be that irresponsible” to not avoid “a self-inflicted wound to the economy.”