House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on Monday he “wants to get there” regarding a deficit-reduction and debt-ceiling agreement with President Obama and Democrats.
But just minutes before he and other Republican and Democratic congressional leaders began an afternoon meeting with Obama at the White House, Boehner said the issue of taxes continues to be a major roadblock to a deal.
“I want to do what I think is in the best interests of the country,” said Boehner. “But it takes two to tango—and they [Democrats] clearly are not there yet.”
Boehner repeated that he and other congressional Republicans will not agree to any more taxes as part of a package—and he insisted that he, personally, has never made any such agreement on his own. He said it would not pass the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis, anyhow.
Boehner’s short news conference came after a separate briefing earlier by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., during which the No. 2 Republican in the House suggested that his caucus—merely by agreeing to talk about raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit—was providing a concession in negotiations.
Cantor, too, said the issue of taxes remains the “irreconcilable difference” between Republicans and Democrats.
“Barack Obama wants to raise taxes and Republicans don’t,” he said.
But Cantor said Republicans were entering Monday afternoon’s meeting at the White House hoping to delve deeper into a potential package of $2.4 trillion in spending cuts, the blueprint for which he said was developed in earlier talks led by Vice President Joe Biden. Those talks, he said, identified $300 billion in non-health care spending, about $350 billion in health care-related entitlement savings and at least $1 trillion in savings from discretionary programs and interest savings.
Cantor said there are no plans for a short-term contingency plan—his aides say House Republicans remain opposed to that, just as Obama said earlier on Monday that he is. But there remained no clearer answer to how—or even whether—a compromise will be reached by the August 2 deadline, when Treasury says the United States could begin defaulting on some of its obligations.
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