Saturday, July 30, 2011

GOP & Dems Talking, But No Closer to a Debt Reduction Deal

The fate of raising the $14.3 debt ceiling will be decided behind closed doors now as the Democratic and Republican leadership engage in a final attempt to reach a deal that will keep the U.S. from defaulting on its loans for the first time in its history.

However, with a little more than two days until the default deadline, there was plenty of evidence of political gamesmanship in play, particularly between the GOP and Democratic leaders of the Senate.

GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell reopened the negotiating channels with President Obama in the past 24 hours, ending a stalemate created when Boehner walked away from the table.

McConnell spoke to Obama shortly before the President summoned the House and Senate Democratic leaders to the White House this afternoon.

"We are now fully engaged, the Speaker and I, with the one person in America out of 307 million people who can sign a bill into law," McConnell said. "I'm confident and optimistic that we're going to get an agreement in the very near future and resolve this crisis in the best interest of the American people."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid accused McConnell of grandstanding by saying both sides were close to agreement, saying they were no closer to a deal after meeting along with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi at the White House with Obama.

"Republican leaders still refuse to negotiate in good faith," Reid said.  "The process has not been moved forward during this day."

In the only action today in the public eye, the GOP-controlled House voted 246 to 173 to reject a plan by  Reid that would cut the deficit by more than $2.2 trillion over 10 years and raise the debt limit automatically in three stages, but without further votes in Congress.

There still may be a Senate vote on the Reid measure at 1 a.m. tomorrow just to get it into the record as a negotiating point.

The Republicans, led by its powerful extremist Tea Party wing, passed a bill in the House yesterday that would require Congress hold another debt ceiling vote over the Christmas holidays. The Senate rejected the measure.

Democrats charge it is a purely political move meant to embarrass President Obama and boost GOP presidential candidates ahead of the 2012 elections.

Obama and the Democrats call that idea, along with a nearly impossible provision requiring passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the constitution, a non-starter.

Pelosi accused Boehner of selling out a  $4 trillion grand bargain offered by Obama by abandoning negotiations to pander to the obstructionist Tea Party Republicans.  

"He chose to go to the dark side," Pelosi said to boos from the GOP on the House floor, which only prompted her to repeat the line. "He chose to go to the dark side."

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