NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What's The State Of Play In The Debt Ceiling Talks?


From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

The quest for a compromise to raise the debt ceiling appears to have come down to the nation's top Democrat and top Republican huddling in private. But with only 11 days left to prevent an unprecedented debt default, neither President Obama nor House Speaker John Boehner gave any indication today that a deal is at hand.

And with the clock ticking closer to the August 2nd deadline, NPR's David Welna reports on the growing uncertainty and anxiety among lawmakers.

DAVID WELNA: The race for a solution to the debt limit crisis moved a bit closer to an end game today as the Democratic-run Senate shelved a Tea Party-backed measure passed by House Republicans earlier this week known as Cut, Cap and Balance. It made lifting the debt ceiling contingent on Congress passing a Constitutional amendment to balance the budget. The bill faced a veto threat from the White House and rather than allow a debate on it to proceed until tomorrow as planned, majority leader Harry Reid led Democrats in killing the measure.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): There is simply no more time to waste debating and voting on measures that have no hopes of becoming law. We have no more time to waste playing partisan games.

WELNA: Meanwhile, in another part of the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner was being pressed by reporters on whether he and President Obama had reached a reported $3 trillion deficit reduction deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Speaker JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): I'm going to say it one more time. There was no agreement. (Unintelligible) probably never an agreement and frankly, not close to an agreement. And so I would just suggest that it will be a hot weekend here in Washington D.C.

WELNA: Boehner had just come from a closed-door meeting with fellow House Republicans, Minnesota freshman Chip Cravaak said Boehner assured them there's been no discussion whatsoever in any of the negotiations he's been involved in of raising taxes.

Rep. CHIP CRAVAAK (Republican, Minnesota): Speaker Boehner's been very clear. There will be no tax increases on anything so that's where I am as well. I mean, that's what people in the District are telling me. They're saying, we're taxing up.

WELNA: Congressional Democrats have been adamant that new tax revenues have to be part of any deficit reduction deal. This morning, President Obama told a town hall meeting at the University of Maryland that he's willing to sign a plan that includes tough choices he would not normally make, but then added a caveat.

President BARACK OBAMA: There are going to be a certain set of equities that we're not willing to sacrifice. And I've said we have to have revenue as part of the package.

WELNA: Yesterday, a meeting of Senate Democrats with White House budget director Jack Lew exploded in fury in response to news reports that the deficit reduction deal might do only spending cuts now and leave revenue increases for later. West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller was there.

Rep. JAY ROCKEFELLER (Democrat, West Virginia): I've never been in such an intense, high octane meeting in my life.

Rep. DIANE FEINSTEIN (Democrat, California): I don't lose my cool. I lost it yesterday in the caucus.

WELNA: That's California Democrat, Diane Feinstein.

Rep. FEINSTEIN: You have to know that revenues are going to be part of it. In other words, X amount will be revenues or there is no agreement.

WELNA: Majority leader Reid admitted today he does not know much about what President Obama and Speaker Boehner are discussing.

Senator REID: I say as sincerely as I can, I wish them well. It's extremely important we address the debt and it's extremely important we understand we're no longer talking about credit ratings, we're talking about default of our debt.

WELNA: Reid said by law, any deficit reduction deal that involves taxes has to be dealt with first by the House. But many House Republicans absolutely oppose new taxes and many, including South Carolina's Tim Scott, question whether the debt ceiling even needs to be raised.

Rep. TIM SCOTT (Republican, South Carolina): I think the reality of it is, there's just no possible way that the American government because we have plenty of revenue coming in without the increase.

WELNA: And that attitude may explain why it's been so hard for Speaker Boehner to find a deal that his own party as well as Democrats can vote for. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.