As congressional leaders prepare to embark for the White House for the fourth straight day of debt limit negotiations with President Obama, optimism that an adequate deal will be reached is at an all-time low.
Last week, House Speaker John Boehner quipped that agreeing to a package that raises the debt ceiling and also has the right combination of spending cuts and tax increases is a “Rubik’s Cube that we haven’t worked out yet.”
Wednesday, not much had changed.
“The chances of a deal are very high,” a senior GOP source on the Hill told The Daily Caller. “The chances of it being a good one is less than zero.”
The source went on to say that anything that comes out of negotiations will “definitely” be a last-minute deal.
The only question now is which party will end up compromising the most. (House members propose bill to ensure military checks if debt ceiling is not raised)
Democrats continue to push for a broader, more ambitious package with spending cuts and revenue raisers that open the door for tax increases in 2013.
Republicans are standing firm that any deal with tax increases is off the table.
One Senate GOP staffer told TheDC that pushing the Cut, Cap, Balance Act is one tool in the conservatives’ belt that could change the narrative over who is preventing a deal from being reached. “The President and Senate Democrats [would] have to explain to the American people why they oppose balancing the budget to the point of threatening our economy.”
But so far, no vote has been scheduled yet on the Cut, Cap, Balance Act. On Tuesday, a group of Republican senators met with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to discuss the legislation, but no decision was made. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, however, is expected to introduce a version of the bill in the House in the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, lawmakers traded barbs earlier this week about who was more to blame for the debt limit crisis: Congress or the President.
“We passed our budget back in the spring, outlined our priorities,” said Boehner on Tuesday. “Where’s the president’s plan? When’s he going to lay his cards on the table? This debt limit increase is his problem.”
In response, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released a statement saying that “It is time for our leaders to find common ground and reduce our deficit in a way that will strengthen our economy.” (McConnell proposal on debt limit prompts swift backlash from conservatives)
But Boehner came back Wednesday, telling a group of reporters that negotiating with the White House has been like dealing with Jell-O. “Sometimes it’s like they’ve left it out overnight,” said Boehner, adding that talks crumbled over the weekend because the president had backed off entitlement reform.
“The only thing they’ve been firm on is these damn tax increases,” said Boehner.
When it comes to actual numbers on Capitol Hill, more and more lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are signaling their intentions to not support any deal that does not meet their specifications.
In the House, a significant number of Democrats would have to vote for an agreement to make up for Republicans like Michele Bachmann of Minnesota who have said they will vote against raising the debt limit on principle. At the same time, Democrats became disgruntled last week when President Obama put cuts to Medicare and Social Security on the table.
That feeling among Democrats was intensified Tuesday when Obama said in an interview with CBS that Social Security checks may not go out next month if no agreement is reached.
At this point, the only consensus among Republicans and Democrats is the previously agreed-upon $1 trillion in cuts that was negotiated by Vice President Joe Biden.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday to reiterate the need to raise the debt limit by August 2. Failing to do so, he said, could be “catastrophic” for the global economy.