Tension Rising in Debt Negotiations

Party lines are blurring, but a deal still isn't done

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Less than two weeks away from the debt ceiling deadline and there's still no definitive plan in sight. The president met with Republican and Democratic leaders separately Wednesday at the White House to see if they could come closer to a conclusion on a budget deal. The President is still pushing for the largest possible deal to lower the deficit by upwards of $4 trillion over ten years.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the president would be open to a short-term raising of the debt-ceiling if Congress already had a budget deal agreed to and on the table, The Wall Street Journal reports. "We believe a short-term extension, absent an agreement to a larger deal, is unacceptable," Carney said. "If both sides agree to something concretely significant, we will support the measures needed to finalize the details." Carney apparently clarified his remarks later, saying he only meant an extension of a few days.

Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler explains the extension's possibility as, "if a deal's been cut, the votes are there, but the legislative process (bill writing, budget scoring, voting) would drag us past August 2."

The uncertainty over the plans currently available dominated most of the talks. The deadline isn't a month away anymore and each party is starting to sweat a little. According to The New York Times, the Republican hard-line stance on raising taxes is starting to splinter. Some have "appeared more willing to consider a deal locking in spending cuts that Mr. Obama has said he would take if balanced by new revenues." The Times says House Speaker John Boehner "has shown continued interest in a deal if it can be done in a way that emphasizes lower tax rates," but Eric Cantor is still resisting. The No. 2 Republican thought the Gang of Six deal relied too much on raising new revenue.

As the deadline approaches, both parties will start flexing less and compromising more. The "Cut, Cap and Balance" act isn't going to pass the Democratically controlled Senate. The Gang of Six plan, a $3.7 trillion deal that combines spending cut and new revenue that the president supported, is starting to gain steam. With time ticking down, Politico's David Rogers examined what could come next:

“They are going to torch the House,” said one veteran Democratic strategist, predicting a steady escalation of political heat on Republicans in the remaining days before the Aug. 2 deadline. But no such strategy can work without first getting a debt bill out of the Senate, and here Obama appears conflicted between the practical task at hand — and his reluctance to give up quite yet on the chance to shoot for a larger deficit deal.

Whether that deal will come in the form of the Gang of Six's proposal, or a revived form of the original $4 trillion dollar deal negotiators from both parties were working on up until last Friday, remains to be seen.

Elsewhere, a video from an episode of The West Wing began circulating the Internet that efficiently breaks down where the debt ceiling is headed over the next week and a half. It comes from the episode "In God We Trust" from the show's sixth season. If you had any remaining questions about the negotiations, the fallout if a deal isn't reached, why it all happens, it's all here.

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