WASHINGTON -- Democratic and Republican negotiators tasked with working on debt negotiations sounded as far apart as ever Tuesday on a deal to keep America's bills paid -- but they agree they want the President to pay them a visit to move things along.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's sudden request for President Obama to drop by for lunch was spurned by the White House, so McConnell invited him again Tuesday afternoon.
“My hope, as I made clear, was that he would listen to Republicans and hear firsthand why we think raising taxes in a weak economy is a bad idea and what the realities are over here," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
“My goal, as I said on Thursday, was to get together and talk about what’s actually possible," he said. "The Obama administration said it wasn’t 'a conversation worth having.’ Republicans in Congress believe that finding a way to reduce the deficit and put Medicare on more secure footing is a conversation worth having. So today I’d like to re-extend the offer."
White House spokesman Jay Carney actually said that it wasn't "worth" it to have the president listen to what Republicans will not accept in a deal, saying, "that's not a conversation worth having. We need to have a conversation about what will pass."
“I think the best way to solve this impasse is for the President to hear what needs to be done, and how we can do it -- hear what can actually pass here in Congress," McConnell said. "He needs to understand the principle at stake here from our point of view."
The White House is likely to turn McConnell down once again, but Democrats on the Hill expected Obama would agree to a bipartisan meeting with the leaders of both chambers, perhaps on Wednesday.
For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested Republicans are the ones not willing to talk or negotiate, noting that top leaders on the other side of the aisle have abandoned debt and budget talks.
And he kept up the Democratic argument that Republicans are holding their position in order to shield the wealthy from sacrifice in tough times.
"Twenty percent of all the income earned in this nation is earned by the top 1 percent of its citizens," Reid said. "It is this top 1 percent that Republicans are determined to protect. Republicans walked away from negotiations to protect them."
"Democrats believe the sacrifice should be shared by the richest 1 percent as well. The others have all sacrificed too much already," Reid added, suggesting the GOP needs to return to the discussions.
"The invitation to Republicans to help prevent a catastrophic default remains open," Reid said. "To become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, all Republicans have to do is accept that invitation."
The Treasury Department estimates that the federal government will begin to default on its obligations on Aug. 2 if a deal is not reached to raise the nation's debt limit from the current level of $14.3 trillion.
On the Democratic side, the stalled talks have prompted Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to resurrect efforts to propose a budget, and he was expected to lay out a blueprint to party leaders Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. He was then expected to bring it to the rest of the caucus, although the timing could be affected if the president ultimately agrees to a meeting.
Sources expected Conrad to offer a plan that had roughly equal amounts of revenue-raisers and cuts, totaling more than $4 trillion in 10 years.
Some Democrats worry, though, that there's no point in starting work on their own budget when the key negotiations on spending are going on elsewhere. Plus, even with a 50-50 split between taxes and savings or cuts, any plan that Democrats offered on their own would enable Republicans to attack vulnerable Democrats for supporting tax hikes.