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John Boehner Leaves Debt Ceiling Talks With Obama

John Boehner Debt Ceiling

AP/The Huffington Post   First Posted: 07/22/11 07:09 PM ET Updated: 09/21/11 06:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP/The Huffington Post) -- House Speaker John Boehner has broken off talks with President Barack Obama on getting a budget deal to avert a government default.

The Ohio Republican says the president wants to raise taxes too high and won't make "fundamental changes" to benefit programs such as Medicare.

President Obama, speaking at a press conference at the White House, told reporters that Boehner would not return his phone calls. "I've been left at the altar now a couple of times," Obama said.

"It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal," Obama said. "Can they say yes to anything?"

Obama called on congressional leaders to attend a meeting at the White House at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.

"We have run out of time and they are going to have to explain to me how we're going to avoid a default."

"I expect them to have an answer in terms of how they intend to get this thing done in the course of the next week. The American people expect action," Obama said.

Top GOP aides say Boehner will now work with Senate leaders on an alternative aimed at averting a market-rattling, first-ever federal default.

HuffPost's Sam Stein, Ryan Grim, and Jennifer Bendery report on why the talks fell apart:

Where the two sides remained apart were on Medicaid cuts, with Republicans demanding tens of billions of dollars more in cuts than the president was comfortable making. White House officials described that difference as possible to overcome, however.

The revenue component, in the end, remained unbridgeable. According to senior White House officials, each side had agreed to pass tax reform down the road that would result in $800 billion in revenue generated -- the equivalent amount of savings that would be achieved if the top-end Bush tax cuts were simply allowed to expire. The administration wanted $400 billion in revenues on top of that. Republicans wanted zero, and in statements on Friday night GOP leadership aides insisted that the White House had changed the contours of the negotiations by making that demand in recent days.

Obama offered to move off that $400 billion mark should GOP leadership lessen the type of cuts to entitlement programs they were demanding, White House aides said.

In addition, the two sides could not figure out what to do if that aspirational tax reform package wasn't achieved.

Read more here.

"It's disappointing that the talks with the White House did not reach a favorable conclusion, and I appreciate the Speaker insisting on reduced spending and opposing the President's call for higher taxes on American families and job creators," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement. "It is similarly disappointing that the White House has refused to join Republicans in our effort to cut Washington spending now, cap runaway spending in the future and save our entitlement programs and our country from bankruptcy by requiring the nation to balance its budget. Speaker Boehner has informed us that he will work on a new path forward with Leader Reid to develop a solution that will prevent default, without job killing tax hikes, while substantially reducing Washington spending."

McConnell added, "As I've said before, it's time now for the debate to move out of a room in the White House and on to the House and Senate floors where we can debate the best approach to reducing the nation's unsustainable debt."

Friday morning, a source familiar with the negotiations told HuffPost's Michael McAuliffe and Jennifer Bendery that he suspected the talks would eventually fail and the McConnell plan would move, shifting the unpalatable responsibility for cutting and lifting the debt cap to President Obama.

"No one wants to punt until default is the only other option," the Democratic aide said.

Boehner sent the following letter to House Members and staff on Friday night:

Dear Colleague, Our economy is not creating enough jobs, and the policies coming out of Washington are a big reason why. Because of Washington, we have a tax code that is stifling job creation. Because of Washington, we have a debt crisis that is sowing uncertainty and sapping the confidence of small businesses. Because of Washington, our children are financing a government spending binge that is jeopardizing their future.

Since the moment I became Speaker, I've urged President Obama to lock arms with me and seize this moment to do something significant to address these challenges. I've urged him to partner with congressional Republicans to do something dramatic to change the fiscal trajectory of our country. . .something that will boost confidence in our economy, renew a measure of faith in our institutions of government, and help small businesses get back to creating jobs.

The House this week passed such a plan. . .the Cut, Cap & Balance Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support.

Along with Majority Leader Cantor, I have also engaged the president in a dialogue in recent days. The purpose of this dialogue was to see if we could identify a path forward that would implement the principles of Cut, Cap, & Balance in a manner that could secure bipartisan support and be signed into law.

During these discussions - as in my earlier discussions - it became evident that the White House is simply not serious about ending the spending binge that is destroying jobs and endangering our children's future.

A deal was never reached, and was never really close.

In the end, we couldn't connect. Not because of different personalities, but because of different visions for our country.

The president is emphatic that taxes have to be raised. As a former small businessman, I know tax increases destroy jobs.

The president is adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs. As the father of two daughters, I know these programs won't be there for their generation unless significant action is taken now.

For these reasons, I have decided to end discussions with the White House and begin conversations with the leaders of the Senate in an effort to find a path forward.

The Democratic leaders of the House and Senate have not been participants in the conversations I and Leader Cantor have had with the White House; nor have the Republican leaders of the Senate. But I believe there is a shared commitment on both sides of the aisle to producing legislation that will serve the best interests of our country in the days ahead - legislation that reflects the will of the American people, consistent with the principles of the Cut, Cap, & Balance Act that passed the House with bipartisan support this week.

I wanted to alert you to these developments as soon as possible. Further information will be coming as soon as it is available. It is an honor to serve with you. Together, we will do everything in our power to end the spending binge in Washington and help our economy get back to creating jobs.

Sincerely,

John Boehner


Harry Reid released the following statement Friday evening:

"Republicans have once again proven unable to overcome their ideological opposition to ending taxpayer-funded giveaways for millionaires, corporate jet owners and oil companies. I applaud President Obama for insisting that any deal to reduce our deficit be balanced between cuts and revenues. We must avert a default at all costs, so it is time to reengage in bipartisan talks on an agreement that at least accomplishes that goal. I agree with President Obama that a short-term extension is unacceptable."
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