Early Friday evening, Obama angrily explained to the press that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) walked away from negotiations to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit.
Obama said that he and the Speaker had agreed to a plan that would offer $1 trillion in discretionary spending cuts, $650 billion of modest cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, and only $1.2 trillion in revenue increases. The revenue increases, he added, would not require tax increases, but only closing tax loopholes.
This plan was apparently even more generous to Republicans than the plan developed by the bipartisan group of Senators known as the “Gang of Six,” which was supported by many Republicans. Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other liberal Democrats were uneasy with the Gang of Six proposal because it called for cuts to entitlement programs that serve the poor and elderly, rather than raising taxes on the wealthy.
Earlier on Friday, Pelosi signaled she was willing to accept spending cuts so long as bedrock Democratic priorities are kept safe, in contrast to previously floated plans to raise the eligibility age of Social Security or Medicare, which Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) derided as “[people] who’ve been sitting on their asses their whole lives telling some woman who’s been standing on her feet as a store clerk that 67’s too early for her — she should do it till she’s 70.” As Talking Points Memo explains:
The plan would place a firewall between entitlement spending and the threat of default, upsetting GOP plans to force deep, immediate cuts to those programs. And if, as a result, the GOP declined the offer, Democrats would agree to punt the questions of entitlement spending and tax revenues to a future, streamlined legislative process.
The potential endgame, Pelosi said, would meet an arbitrary GOP requirement that Congress must only grant President Obama as much new borrowing authority as he’s willing to accept in spending cuts, and leave for a later date a twinned fight over revenues and social insurance programs.
Despite her reservations, though, Pelosi was at least willing to consider a similar plan, and Obama promised that he would try to persuade his party to accept a balanced plan that includes moderate cuts to entitlement programs in order to reduce the deficit. Boehner, on the other hand, simply walked away from the negotiations. This led Obama to mock the Republicans, telling them they had “to ask themselves, can they say yes to anything?”
After Obama’s press conference, Speaker Boehner held one of his own, in which he accused the President of asking for $1.2 trillion in revenue increases, despite earlier agreeing only to ask for $800 billion.