House Speaker John Boehner wants a deal on raising the federal debt ceiling by the end of the month, surprising given that Congress was expected to delay raising the limit till the very last minute in August, just before recess. Boehner said Wednesday both he and President Obama want an agreement sooner rather than later, and his comments could help make that happen, The Hill's Bob Cusack and Molly K. Hooper report. That would mean the debt limit debate would play out much differently than April's 2011 budget battle, when a government shutdown was avoided with hours to spare.
Boehner's remarks come ahead of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's address to Republican House freshman Thursday--"enemy territory," Politico's Marin Cogan and Jake Sherman write, but evidence the White House "wants to get moving toward a deal." Many in the freshmen class see Geithner as a "Chicken Little," in the words of Rep. Mo. Brooks, panicking about an economic apocalypse that will never happen. They want to know what the administration's Plan B is if the debt ceiling isn't raised, and they're not sure there is one.
That the freshman want a more solid vision of what happens if the August 2 deadline is blown can't be comforting to the White House. It's unlikely Obama's meeting with Republican leaders Wednesday was either, because the talks didn't go as smoothly as possible. There was eye-rolling, for one thing, when Obama said taxes were higher under President Reagan, Hooper reports. The word "demagogue" was deployed by both sides. Obama sharply criticized Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, which would overhaul Medicare, and Ryan fired back that "Leaders have to lead, and you haven't done it yet." At least, that's according to a Republican aide who witnessed the meeting--key facts about who got in the best zingers are in dispute. The White House told First Read that Ryan was "very nervous and defensive." Perhaps after both sides got their zings out of their system, Boehner is ready to make nice--or, in his words, "ready to get on with it."