Republicans, White House Discuss a $3 Trillion Budget Deal

Democrats are furious over deep cuts that both sides allegedly agree upon

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AP

The White House and House Republican leaders are discussing a large deal to raise the debt ceiling that would include about $3 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years, according to several congressional aides.

The aides, who declined to be named because they weren't authorized to speak publicly, said the proposal's outline is broadly similar to a plan discussed previously by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and a "Gang of Six" proposal to cut about $3.7 trillion in a decade, with the major exception that it would not raise significant tax revenue. The gang proposal, by contrast, would seek $1 trillion of its deficit cuts from new tax revenue.

A White House official who asked not to be identified said progress was being made in the discussions. But the official declined to provide any details, deferring to Boehner's ongoing presentations to House Republicans as he works to determine whether he can garner the necessary support for passage.

As described, the plan would be a major, and unexpected, concession to congressional Republicans. The lack of immediate tax revenue would be a nonstarter for many Democrats in Congress, endangering its prospects in the Senate in particular. The mere fact the deal is under discussion already has Democrats up in arms. Democratic lawmakers ripped the proposal after Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew briefed them at a Caucus meeting on Thursday.

"There has to be fairness in this," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters. "This can't be all cuts. There has to be a balance. There has to be some revenue and cuts. My Caucus agrees with that. I hope the president sticks with that. I am confident he will."

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said Democrats "are volcanic at this point."

"You can't ask us to vote when we haven't been part of the deal," Mikulski said.

Congressional aides said an agreement on the proposal is not imminent, characterizing discussions on the proposal as being at an early stage.  

A House leadership aide, meanwhile, told National Journal that Boehner is letting House Republicans know he will unveil a debt-ceiling plan to them during their closed-door conference on Friday. 

But Boehner spokesman Michael Steel vehemently denied that would be the case. Pressed about whether just some details or contours of a plan would be discussed, Steel insisted that would not happen, either. He would not say what, then, will be discussed at the Republican conference.

"While we are keeping the lines of communication open, there is no 'deal' and no progress to report," Steel said. "We are still focused on the 'cut, cap, and balance' bill that passed the House with bipartisan support, and hope the Senate will take it up as soon as possible."

White House spokesman Jay Carney also denied reports that a deal was close. "There is no deal; we are not close to a deal. Obviously the president is in discussions with all the leaders of Congress ... and exploring the possibility of getting the biggest deal possible," Carney said.

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Dan Friedman is a staff writer (Senate leadership) for National Journal.

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