The debt ceiling talks, to the nation (and the world's) increasing frustration and fear, reached a bleak moment Friday evening when President Obama said that House Speaker John Boehner walked away from negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. President Obama called an urgent meeting Saturday morning at the White House, which ended without resolution less than an hour later, the New York Times reports. The meeting, as various sources have speculated, was probably not a happy one. Jamie Dupree from Cox radio indicated that the White House Pool noted "strained body language" as debt limit negotiations began.
In attendance at the meeting, according to National Journal, were Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. With an air of desperation, media outlets tried to report on what had been accomplished. So far few have come up with concrete answers. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said only that Obama wanted reassurance on Saturday that there was a plan to prevent the nation from defaulting, according to Talking Points Memo.
"The President wanted to know that there was a plan for preventing national default," McConnell said in a brief statement. "The bipartisan leadership in Congress is committed to working on new legislation that will prevent default while substantially reducing Washington spending."
Another Democratic aide told TPM that "Leaders discussed the urgency of finding a path forward this weekend and agreed that staffs would work together throughout the weekend." White House press secretary Jay Carney likewise said in a statement, “The leaders agreed to return to Capitol Hill to talk to their members and discuss a way forward, and conversations will continue throughout the day.” And after the meeting, Boehner held a conference call with rank-and-file Republicans where he pledged to help avert a crisis in the Asian markets by making a statement within 24 hours about the status of raising the debt limit.
So both sides -- at minimum -- have agreed that the debt ceiling issue is a matter of some serious urgency, with serious progress required this weekend. But lest it seem this paralysis will be ending that quickly, Boehner also said that he was not necessarily looking for a full-blown deal by Sunday, just signs of progress. Politico also reports that after the meeting, "there was no sign that the parties had resolved their differences."
Still, the result is that not only will all sides be working through the weekends, they may not get a break all next week, either. NBC News Capitol Hill reporter Luke Russert indicated that, according to NBC News' Shawna Thomas over Twitter: "Per GOP aide House plans to be in session for a week straight starting Monday. A Monday to Monday work week. The goal according to the aide is to pass a debt deal and gavel out on Monday evening August 1st."
It looks like it will be a long week. According to TPM, "Boehner said he was hoping to forge a deal to wrangle between $3 trillion and $5 trilion in savings and would prefer to avoid falling back on the so-called 'McConnell Plan' that would hand over authority to raise the debt ceiling to the President with Congress able to disapprove only with a two-thirds majority vote." The New York Times reports that Boehner said on Saturday that, “As I said last night, over this weekend Congress will forge a responsible path forward. House and Senate leaders will be working to find a bipartisan solution to significantly reduce Washington spending and preserve the full faith and credit of the United States.”
“We are working, and I’m confident there will be resolution,” Boehner said in the afternoon call. “There has to be.”
The pressure has increased from the White House as well. According to the Washington Post, the congressional leaders were told to report back to the White House by 5 p.m. on whether they will be able to reach an agreement. “Congress should refrain from playing reckless political games with our economy,” the statement said. “Instead, it should be responsible and do its job, avoiding default and cutting the deficit.”