Speaker John A. Boehner told President Obama on Saturday night he will not agree to the president’s most ambitious plan for deficit reduction, citing the administration’s pursuit of tax increases as one of the main hurdles.
“The White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement released Saturday night. “I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase.”
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer issued a statement later Saturday night repeating the president’s call for a “balanced approach” on deficit reduction and urging congressional leaders to keep negotiating with the administration on the largest possible deal.
“To back off now will not only fail to solve our fiscal challenge, it will confirm the cynicism people have about politics in Washington,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “The President believes that now is the moment to rise above that cynicism and show the American people that we can still do big things.”
Mr. Boehner still will attend a negotiating session at the White House set for 6 p.m. Sunday, but his declaration appears to shatter Mr. Obama’s effort to pursue the largest possible deficit reduction deal of $4 trillion over 10 years by including tax hikes. Earlier talks led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had reached consensus on about $2 trillion in deficit reduction through spending cuts.
Conservative House Republican leaders have been wary that the administration’s pursuit of the goal of $4 trillion could include as much as $1 trillion in tax hikes by closing loopholes and other changes in the tax code.
Congressional Democrats have rebelled in recent days against the president’s willingness to consider spending reductions on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare in pursuit of a higher deficit-reduction target.
The talks have reached a critical stage as negotiators seek a deal that will include raising the nation’s borrowing limit of $14.29 trillion. The administration has warned that unless Congress approves a hike in the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, the government will begin defaulting on its obligations, which could throw financial markets into turmoil.
Mr. Pfeiffer said the president plans in Sunday’s talks to “make the case to congressional leaders that we must reject the politics of least resistance and take on this critical challenge.”
Congressional leaders met with Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden at the White House Thursday, after which Mr. Boehner said he was skeptical that the parties could bridge a wide gap in the talks. Mr. Obama also has acknowledged in recent days that significant differences remain between the administration and congressional Republican leaders.