Hopes that an Obama/Boehner “bromance,” which began with a game of golf, might rescue the debt ceiling negotiations were dashed Friday evening as Obama compared himself to a jilted lover.
President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) had been working together on a $3 trillion deficit reduction package to help lower the nation's $14.5 trillion debt burden before Boehner walked away from the negotiations on Friday.
“I've been left at the altar two times now,” Obama said at a news conference Friday evening.
Obama was also referencing the previous “Grand Bargain,” $6 trillion deficit reduction package that Obama and Boehner had worked on previously. Boehner walked away from those negotiations after he met strong opposition from the Tea Party Republicans in his caucus.
In dueling press conferences, Obama and Boehner offered different versions of who was responsible for the collapse of the negotiations for a $3 trillion deficit reduction package.
Obama was visibly angry at what had happened. While Obama described his relationship with Boehner as “cordial,” he also complained that Boehner had not returned his phone calls on Friday and said that their negotiations were “intense.”
“And I think that one of the questions that the Republican Party is going to have to ask itself is can they say yes to anything? Can they say yes to anything?
“We’ve now put forward a package that would significantly cut deficits and debt. It would be the biggest debt reduction package that we’ve seen in a very long time. And it’s accomplished without raising individual tax rates. It’s accomplished in a way that’s compatible with the “no tax” pledge that a whole bunch of these folks signed on to-because we were mindful that they had boxed themselves in and we tried to find a way for them to generate revenues in a way that did not put them in a bad spot. And so the question is, what can you say yes to?,” Obama said.
The agreement being worked on by Obama and Boehner would have required the House and Senate to work on a broad tax reform package over the next several months that would do away with many tax deductions and credits and lower overall tax rates. To encourage Republicans to reach an agreement, a “trigger” would be put in place-the Bush tax cuts would expire and rates would increase if no tax reform bill were passed.
Boehner asked for an additional trigger that would encourage Democrats to reach an agreement on tax reform-revoking the individual mandate that was part of Obama's health care reform law. Obama did not agree to this trigger.
In his version of the story, Boehner said it was Obama who walked away after Boehner balked at a last minute demand for additional revenue.
“The White House moved the goal post. There was an agreement on some additional revenues, until yesterday when the president demanded $400 billion more, which was going to be nothing more than a tax increase on the American people.
“There was an agreement with the White House at $800 billion in revenue. It’s the president who walked away from his agreement and demanded more money at the last minute,” Boehner said.
Boehner also compared his negotiations with Obama to working with “a bowl of jell-o.”
Obama was likely pressured by Democratic leaders to ask for the additional revenue. In a tense meeting with White House Budget Director Jack Lew on Thursday, Democratic senators complained about not being included in Obama and Boehner's private meetings. They warned Lew that they would not support any deal if they were left out of negotiations.
Obama called for all four congressional leaders, Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to meet with him at the White House at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Boehner said that, even though he walked away from talks on Friday, he would attend the meeting.
Recent events serve as a reminder that the debt limit negotiations are not simply about the technical aspects of reaching an agreement that can garner enough votes in the House and Senate. The negotiators also experience human emotions, such as hurt feelings and pride, that can impact the success or failure of the negotiations.