July 13th, 2011
05:11 PM ET
Washington (CNN) - In a meeting to discuss the status of debt talks with reporters in his Capitol Hill office today House Speaker John Boehner said, ““What the President is asking us to do just won’t pass.” Of the White House he insisted, “The only thing they’ve been firm on is these damn tax increases.”
The Speaker believes the broad set of options discussed during the daily White House meetings would not muster enough support within his caucus because they would raise taxes and demand smaller, less meaningful cuts than needed.
Asked to respond to the Speaker’s comments White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer says “The President is ready, willing and able to make the tough choices on entitlements, but you can’t have a balanced approach that is good for the country if you are unwilling to ask the wealthy and special interests to pay their fair share, unfortunately that is the Republican position right now – seniors, middle class families, and college students should sacrifice, but not the wealthiest”
From his vantage, he said, this was particularly true during the negotiations for the so-called “big deal” debt package. Despite initial claims by Republicans that the “big deal” broke down over differing approaches to tax reform, today the Speaker argued the breakdown was also over entitlement reform. He said the White House backed off its commitment to entitlement reform, so much that by last Saturday when he scrapped the idea of a big deal “It was Jell-O; it was damn near liquid”.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer says this characterization of the breakdown is “simply not true.”
A senior Republican close to the negotiations says when the Speaker called the President on Saturday to inform him the big deal was off, they spent 35 minutes on the phone and described the President’s reaction as surprised but not shocked. The senior Republican also says Speaker Boehner first began discussing the idea of doing the big deal with the President back in January. He feels the President shares his preference for the big deal option, but waited too long to get personally involved in the negotiations.
As for the current talks, the Republican close to the negotiations believes the daily meetings at the White House aren’t bearing fruit. This persons says they “have a process problem as well as a substance problem,” and argues that Republicans are “in a spot where we need to be. It’s not a bad place for us to be” to get a deal done.
Speaker Boehener is personally confident both sides will find a way to avoid default. “Nobody wants to go there, because nobody knows what’s going to happen. It’s a crapshoot,” he told reporters. And he made it clear he’d prefer the hand he’s been dealt. He says all he has to do is talk to the American people to know the country is in favor of spending cuts. “The American people want us to hang tough,” he says. And adds, the White House knows “they’re not winning” this argument.