House Speaker John Boehner hopes to have a framework for a debt-limit plan in place by Sunday afternoon to avoid roiling the Asian markets, he told colleagues on a Saturday conference call.
An immediate deal would raise the debt ceiling and cut spending, Boehner said, and there are still options on the table for more comprehensive deficit reduction of $3 trillion to $5 trillion, according to GOP sources on the call. He is also aiming for a framework in the form of Cut, Cap and Balance — the plan that has failed in the Senate, Obama has threatened to veto but House Republicans passed overwhelmingly.
He acknowledged that he might not be able to get the details of a plan to all members by the time he makes an announcement tomorrow, but warned colleagues that they risk losing leverage in the negotiations if something isn't enacted by Aug. 2.
Congressional lawmakers may meet later Saturday to continue discussions, Democratic and Republican sources said.
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The Ohio Republican also said his goal is to avoid using the Senate's "McConnell plan," which would allow the president to raise the debt ceiling at several junctures over the next year-and-a-half, subject to congressional disapproval.
"Don't worry. I'll be strong," he said, according to one of the sources.
Michael Steel, Boehner's spokesman, said the speaker is "working with congressional leaders on a path forward that will prevent a default. He is aware of the White House's concerns about the Asian markets."
He discussed several options for reaching some of the longer-term goals of House Republicans and the White House later in the process. He received credit from several lawmakers for his work as a negotiator and his defense of GOP principles, sources on the call said.
Boehner walked away from talks for a large-scale deficit deal Friday, saying the White House abandoned an agreed upon number for a revenue increase and was insisting on tax hikes. That move, GOP aides and lawmakers said, was seen favorably by House Republicans, who are wary of deal making with Obama.
Boehner recounted to participants on the call what he told Obama.
"As I read the Constitution, the Congress writes the laws and you get to decide what you want to sign," Boehner said, recounting what he told the president, according to two sources.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is charged with wrangling the votes for any agreement, told lawmakers to "keep calm and carry on," according to two sources on the call.
Boehner also told lawmakers how the larger compromise fell apart. He said there was an agreement on a revenue ceiling that would be done through reforming the tax code, not raising rates.
Boehner and McConnell, along with their Democratic counterparts, met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for less than an hour Saturday, the start of a last-gasp round of negotiations with the president to avert a government default on the nation's debt.
But there was no sign that the parties had resolved their differences.
"The leaders agreed to return to Capitol Hill to talk to their members and discuss a way forward, and conversations will continue throughout the day," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Following a stunning breakdown in efforts to reach a $3 trillion, 10-year agreement to cut the deficit, the challenge for Obama and Boehner will not just be devising a legislative strategy to push a debt-limit increase through a resistant Congress, but repairing the bruised relationships that received a very public airing Friday.
The White House had thought it was on the cusp of an agreement when Boehner walked from the negotiations, accusing the president of demanding more revenue at the last minute. Obama disputed this account, saying his request for the speaker to give up more wasn't a take-it or leave-it demand, but part of the negotiating process.
But with the deadline looming, the more immediate concern Saturday was finding a way to lift the debt ceiling before the deadline nine days from now.
"The president wanted to know that there was a plan for preventing national default," McConnell said in a written statement after the meeting. "The bipartisan leadership in Congress is committed to working on new legislation that will prevent default while substantially reducing Washington spending."
Obama repeatedly has said he will not agree to a short-term increase, instead demanding an extension that carries past the 2012 election.
During the meeting Saturday, "the president restated his opposition to a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, explaining that a short-term extension could cause our country's credit rating to be downgraded, causing harm to our economy and causing every American to pay higher credit cards rates and more for home and car loans," Carney said.
"As the current situation makes clear, it would be irresponsible to put our country and economy at risk again in just a few short months with another battle over raising the debt ceiling. Congress should refrain from playing reckless political games with our economy. Instead, it should be responsible and do its job, avoiding default and cutting the deficit."
But House Republicans, who had previously agreed with the president that short-term measures weren't acceptable, now say stopgap measures are an option they can't rule out.
"Our message there will be simple: If the White House won't get serious, we will," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Saturday in an emailed statement before the meeting. "The speaker is determined to tackle our spending problem in a significant way and, as he stressed last night, is committed to preventing a default on our debt."
Boehner was expected to insist that the president agree to a package of spending cuts that match the amount needed to raise the debt limit, which would be about $2.4 trillion through the end of next year, Buck said.
"Last night the president said, 'the only bottom line that I have is that we have to extend this debt ceiling through the next election,'" Buck wrote. "Now, we do not know what size or shape a final package will take, but it would be terribly unfortunate if the president was willing to veto a debt limit increase simply because the timetable prescribed would not be the ideal one for his reelection campaign."
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer responded to the speaker's statement Saturday on Twitter.
"Short-term increases risk downgrade, (Boehner) knows that which is why he opposed them last wk," Pfeiffer wrote. "Time for leaders to lead."
Both House and Senate Democrats have begun fundraising off Boehner walking out of the talks.