Sunday Debt Talks Go Nowhere; Meetings to Resume Monday

Sunday, 10 Jul 2011 09:31 PM

 

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President Barack Obama and congressional leaders made little progress in debt-reduction talks Sunday, a day after House Speaker John Boehner said all sides must settle for a smaller plan than the president seeks, according to congressional aides familiar with the talks.

Before Sunday’s 75-minute meeting at the White House, Obama said “we need to” reach an agreement within the next 10 days to allow an increase in the U.S. debt limit. The president and eight congressional leaders plan to meet again Monday and Obama scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference.

All sides plan to meet every day until an agreement is reached, said one congressional aide who sought anonymity to discuss the private negotiations.

The negotiators Sunday made little headway on the major issues of raising taxes and cutting entitlement programs as Democrats maintained their demand that any package include new revenue and Republicans balked, said congressional aides familiar with the meeting.

“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,” Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said in a statement after the meeting.

During the meeting, Obama continued to press Republicans for a broad agreement even as talks focused on reviewing narrower areas of agreement established during earlier talks led by Vice President Joe Biden, according to congressional aides.

Frustration From Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, expressed frustration that Republicans had repeatedly walked away from the table, according to one aide.

Saturday, Boehner of Ohio said he will pursue a smaller deficit reduction accord than the $4 trillion one Obama is seeking because the White House won’t approve a bigger deal without tax increases. “I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure,” Boehner said in a statement.

Another Democrat familiar with the talks said Obama opened the meeting by saying he still wants a larger deal. Democratic congressional leaders were united around a large deal and Republicans were united around a smaller deal and didn’t want to consider higher revenue, the Democrat said.

The meeting concluded with the president saying he still was not persuaded, and he asked Republicans to come in Monday with a plan including numbers.

Obama and congressional leaders are seeking a deficit-slashing deal to pave the way for a vote in Congress to increase the government’s $14.3 trillion debt limit, a move the Treasury Department says is needed by Aug. 2 to avert a default on the nation’s financial obligations.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Sunday the Obama administration wants the most comprehensive deficit-cutting deal possible and reiterated that failing to raise the debt limit could have “catastrophic” consequences for the economy.

“We have to find a way to pass an agreement, but the president is going to keep working toward the largest deal we can do, because that’s the right thing for the country,” Geithner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

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