Debt Limit Meeting Yields a Deal to Make a Deal

Attendees agree that deal must be made before the deadline.

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The first meeting on the long, hard road to a debt deal occurred Thursday. President Obama met with top officials from both parties in an effort to work something out before the assigned August 2nd deadline. The meeting was successful, in a baby steps sort of way. The New York Times reports that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner gave the room a run down of the greater effects of what could happen should they fail to make a deal, “and everybody acknowledged that there’s going to be pain involved politically on all sides,” Obama told reporters afterwards. Everyone agreed they must make a deal before the deadline in order to avoid "the upheaval [Geithner] said would reverberate through financial markets and the broader American economy if the government were to go into default." No one was allowed to comment on the specifics of what was discussed but we do know a few things:

There are three deals on the table: "a small deal that would shrink the federal deficit by just over $2 trillion over 10 years that would be accompanied by a vote to raise the debt ceiling through November 2012; a $3 trillion deal; and deal in the range of $4 trillion," says The Wall Street Journal.

Obama will not sign a short-term deal. He'll only sign something that extends past the 2012 election, ensuring that both sides will have to deal with the consequences when the election comes.

Three quarters of the room want the $4 trillion deal. Senator Jon Kyl, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor were the only two opposed to the $4 trillion deal, and instead "favored the midrange $2 trillion, voicing doubts about how they could sell a $4 trillion deal to their rank and file, officials said, since it would involve tax increases," according to The Times.

The Obama and Boehner tag-team is pushing for the biggest deal possible. The President and the Speaker of the House are pushing a united front on making the biggest deal available to them. Aides present during the meeting told The Times that Boehner, "declared that he took the job of speaker to get things accomplished, not just to latch on to the title." He is still vehemently opposed to tax increases. The Washington Post is reporting that the ideal deal would look something like this:

Obama and Boehner have emerged as the most enthusiastic proponents of a big deal that would save as much as $4 trillion over the next decade by overhauling the tax code and tackling all the major drivers of federal spending, including the Pentagon and health and retirement programs.

Social Security is (mostly) safe, Medicare and Medicaid could be altered. Social Security may be altered slightly, but Nancy Pelosi firmly denied that spending would be cut, saying, "We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of America’s seniors, women and people with disabilities." Changes to the consumer-price index were discussed, which would have an effect on the amounts given to some retirees. Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist for the Vice President, told The Times that, "the cuts on the table to Medicare and Medicaid are things the Democrats could live with."

Everyone agreed to reconvene on Sunday in order to try and bridge some of the bigger gaps still on the table. The President is meeting with Nancy Pelosi Friday to address the concerns of the Democratic party. The meeting Sunday is expected to go all afternoon and last well into the night, according to The Journal.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.