Talks between President Barack Obama and Congressional Republicans turned “testy” Sunday night, as both sides refused to budge on tax increases.
Obama used the 75-minute meeting to continue pushing for a $4 trillion deficit reduction package to be included in the deal to raise the debt limit, POLITICO reported, insisting that taxes taxes be a part of such an agreement.
Rep. Eric Cantor did much of the talking for Republicans — and rejected any new revenues — a marked shift from last week, when the more moderate Speaker of the House John Boehner took a leading role.
Under pressure from Cantor and other conservative Republicans, Boehner abandoned hopes for a “grand bargain” Saturday night, saying his caucus would not agree to any new taxes unless they were revenue neutral.
Boehner’s flirtations with accepting tax increases to push forward a historic agreement with Obama were met with resounding criticism from his party — particularly from the 87-member freshman class, which has a large tea-party contingent.
“It’s crazy to think the speaker was considering a trillion [dollars] in tax increases. After all, we’re the anti-tax party,” one “veteran Republican lawmaker close to leadership” told POLITICO. “Cantor brought him, the economy and our party back from the abyss. Cantor is strengthened, clearly. And it’s another example of the speaker almost slipping beyond the will of the GOP conference.”
Asked by a reporter at the beginning fo the meeting whether a deal could be reached in 10 days — allowing time for legislation to be drafted and passed — Obama replied “We need to.”
The leaders will return to the White House later Monday to discuss a scaled-back package relying on about $2.5 trillion deficit reduction that came out of the talks led by Vice President Joe Biden. That deal likely would rely mostly on spending cuts with some non-tax revenue increases, and would not include significant cuts to entitlement programs.
“Eric [Cantor] has always believed the Biden group identified between $2 trillion and $2.5 trillion in spending cuts that could represent the framework for an agreement,” his spokesman, Brad Dayspring, told The New York Times.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said a more modest proposal is no sure thing, saying it’s “very hard to do a small deal too.”
“Small deals are very tough too, because it requires very difficult reforms, savings, cuts in things people depend on that matter,” he said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said a large deficit reduction agreement is still possible.
“We are still hopeful for a large bipartisan agreement,” she said in a statement after the meeting, “which means more stability for our economy, more growth and jobs, and more deficit reduction over a longer period of time.”
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