House Speaker John Boehner has walked away from negotiations to raise the debt ceiling, President Obama said in a news conference Friday at 6 p.m. A visibly angry Obama told reporters that the course of negotiations have made him wonder of Republicans, "Can they say yes to anything?" The president said he's summoning leaders of both parties and from both chambers of Congress to the White House at 11 a.m. Saturday. "They're going to have to explain to me how it is we're going to avoid default," he said. "They can come up here with eight plans if they want and we'll work on them." But, Obama said, the limit must be raised enough to get the government funded through the next election, because hammering out a deal "won't get any easier further down the road." About 45 minutes after Obama finished speaking, Boehner responded, saying dealing with the White House was "like dealing with a bowl full of Jell-O."
Obama defended the need to raise government revenues to prevent increasing "the burden on seniors" and cuts to educations and other programs. Boehner has been adamant that he would not allow any tax increases. "There are a lot of Republicans who are puzzled as to why [the debt deal] couldn't get done," Obama said. "In fact there are a lot of Republican voters who are puizzled as to why it couldn't get done."
Obama said he'd be okay with the backup plan put forward by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, which essentially gives Congress a way to vote against raising the debt limit but allows the president to raise it anyway. "I'm willing to take that responsibility," Obama said.
NBC News' Chuck Todd tweets that for what it's worth, "fits and starts and 'deal is off' theatrics are usually par for the course in these deals. But, we shall see." For his part, Boehner, in a letter to House Republicans, said "A deal was never reached, and was never really close," Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel reports. Boehner writes, "the White House is simply not serious about ending the spending binge that is destroying jobs and endangering our children's future." He reiterated his support for the "cut, cap, and balance" plan that has no chance of passing the Senate.
Obama admonished journalists not to write their stories as "the usual food fight for Democrats and Republicans... a lot of Democrats stepped up," implying that Republicans had not.
Update: Obama gradually raised his voice during the 30-minute press conference. He said politicians should ignore columnists and talk radio hosts and pledges--a reference to controversy over whether anti-Tax advocate Grover Norquist gave Republicans a pass to let the Bush tax cuts expire despite signing his no-new-taxes pledge--and pay attention to regular people who feel like they "can't keep up." A deal must happen soon, he said, because "Wall Street will be opening on Monday and we'd better have some answers over the next couple days." Politico's Martin Kady says that "The new deadline isn't Aug. 2 -- it's 9:30 a.m. Monday when markets open. Short term extension deal prolly gotta happen by then."
Update II: Boehner responded to Obama Friday night, saying he would be meeting at the White House Saturday, as Obama suggested, but notably said he looked forward to working with his fellow members of Congress to avoid a default. He said he'd be working with congressional colleagues to avoid default while adhering to "the two principles we've outlined"--spending cuts worth more dollars than the size of the debt increase, and no tax increases. Boehner said that while he and the president had agreed on an amount to raise revenue, "the White House moved the goal post" and then made "every effort to avoid the real cuts we need to amke to preserve the fiscal integrity of this country." Then Boehner got a bit philosophical, noting that he'd taken "the same oath as the President of the United States" and that "there's a reason why we have two political parties."
In one itty bitty glimmer of hope--or maybe denial--Boehner described negotiations as causing "furstrations on both sides," but ultimately, he doesn't believe his relationship with Obama is "permanently damaged."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.