House Speaker John A. Boehner abandoned efforts Saturday night to reach a comprehensive debt-reduction deal worth more than $4 trillion in savings, telling President Obama that a midsize package was the only politically possible alternative to avoid a first-ever default on the nation’s mounting national debt.
Boehner (R-Ohio) told Obama — who is hosting a key meeting Sunday evening on the debt issue — that their efforts to “go big,” as the speaker says, were /node/60217 stymied by the toughest issues: taxes and entitlements. Democrats continued to insist on tax reforms that would not pass muster in the conservative-dominated House, and Republicans wanted cuts to programs such as Medicare and Social Security that Obama and Senate Democrats would oppose.
“Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes. I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase,” Boehner said in a statement released less than 24 hours before the Obama meeting is to take place.
Without such a lifting of the debt ceiling, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that by Aug. 2, the nation will begin to default on the more than $14.3 trillion in outstanding debts the nation has collected after decades of runaway deficit spending.
Democrats blasted Boehner’s actions.
“I really do think this is unfortunate. It’s very disappointing that the Republican fixation with protecting tax breaks for corporate special interests and the very wealthy has prevented them from agreeing to a broad and balanced deficit reduction plan that would be good for the country,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Biden negotiating team.