'We Have Run Out of Time'

By Major Garrett

President Obama shows his anger as negotiations break down after reports that a deal could be near

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Negotiations over a major $3 trillion deficit-reduction package imploded Friday evening in an angry burst of recrimination between the White House and GOP leaders. "Can they say yes to anything?" Obama asked of the GOP as he summoned congressional leaders to the White House for Saturday talks. "We have run out of time."

Obama strode into the White House briefing shortly after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the president to say he was ending the negotiations for a so-called grand bargain to achieve sizable deficit reduction in the context of raising the debt ceiling.


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"It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal," Obama said.

Boehner, for his part, informed all House Republicans in a letter in which he said "a deal was never reached and was never really close."

"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," Boehner said.

Obama said he was still confident that the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling would be lifted before the August 2 deadline, but openly lamented that a broader agreement to cut spending, overhaul the tax code and avert a government default could not be achieved at the same time. He ordered Democratic and Senate leaders to the White House for negotiations on Saturday after chastizing Boehner for "walking away" from a major package. "I've been left at the altar now a couple of times," Obama said of the talks.

"It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal," Obama said.

Boehner blamed Obama's demand for higher taxes and opposition to "fundamental changes" to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. "In the end, we couldn't connect," Boehner wrote. "Not because of different personalities, but because of different visions for our country. The president is emphatic that taxes have to be raised. The president is adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs."

Boehner informed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Friday afternoon.

Senior House GOP aides said Boehner was not maneuvering and would now focus negotiations on a bill that raises the debt ceiling and meets Boehner's longstanding demand that spending cuts exceed the amount by which the debt ceiling is lifted and the package contain no tax increases.

Obama said he had asked Boehner, Reid, McConnell and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to come to the White House Saturday morning to discuss how to move forward.

Image credit: Reuters

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/07/we-have-run-out-of-time/242394/