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Congress / BUDGET

Lawmakers Likely Headed to White House for Debt Talks

Sen. Harry Reid(Liz Lynch)

photo of Dan  Friedman
July 5, 2011

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are likely to invite congressional leaders of both parties to the White House on Wednesday to discuss raising the debt ceiling rather than meeting only with congressional Democrats, Senate and White House aides said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had said he was inviting Obama and Biden to a Senate Democratic caucus lunch on Wednesday, but the White House has not if said Obama will attend. Leadership staffers and a White House official said Obama is now instead likely to ask a group of Democrats and potentially senior Republicans to meetings at the White House.

Aides said details are under discussion.

 

In addition to Reid’s invitation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a floor speech on Thursday invited Obama to Capitol Hill to “hear directly from Senate Republicans why” any proposal to increase revenue by closing what Democrats call tax loopholes or to increase spending would prevent a deficit reduction package from passing.

McConnell’s invitation appeared aimed at setting up the criticism that Obama, who was scheduled to attend Democratic National Committee fundraisers in Philadelphia on Thursday evening, was ducking a chance to work with the GOP in order to attend a fundraiser.

White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed the invite, saying McConnell’s proposed discussion was "not a conversation worth having."

But the White House may be sensitive to the perception that Obama is willing to come to Congress to meet with Senate Democrats while refusing even a gimmicky Republican invitation.

The meeting, or meetings, will be mostly symbolic. Reid invited Obama to speak with Democrats as part of an effort to demonstrate attention to the deficit this week. Reid canceled the Senate’s July 4 recess week to avoid criticism that Democrats were vacationing instead of seeking a deal on a deficit reduction package. Real negotiations are more likely to occur at the senior staff level.

The parties are working on a deficit reduction deal to be tied to a vote to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before August 2. Republicans and some Democrats say they will not vote to raise the ceiling on debts that the Treasury Department can pay without major spending cuts.

Senate Democrats may vote as early as Wednesday on a nonbinding "sense of the Senate" resolution that says people who earn $1 million a year or more each year should "make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort."

That vote is intended to highlight GOP resistance to considering even politically popular steps to increase tax revenue to cut the deficit.

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