Obama and Lawmakers Hold Sit-Downs on the Deficit and Debt Limit

President Obama met with House Republicans to discuss the debt limit and federal deficit and is holding a similar meeting with Democrats.

The day after a largely symbolic vote in congress Tuesday night to raise the nation’s debt limit that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle knew would fail, President Obama held a sit-down Wednesday morning with House Republicans that also could be considered more symbolic than substantive. If the nation’s debt limit isn’t raised by the August 2 deadline, the economic ramifications could be catastrophic. But Republicans are standing firm on their position that they won’t agree to raising the ceiling unless an equitable amount of spending cuts are made to reduce the federal deficit.


After their meeting with Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) proclaimed the meeting “productive” but said that if the debt limit is to be raised, it must be accompanied by spending cuts.


“I’m looking forward to more serious conversations about how we reduce the deficit and the debt, and to get our economy going again and creating jobs,” he told reporters after the meeting.


But according to one person who was there but isn’t authorized to discuss it on the record, there were some tense moments during which some members “threw a little attitude” and were even a bit “disrespectful.” One bone of contention was Democrats’ portrayal of the Republicans’ plan to reform Medicare, which some described as “demagogy.” The source said that Obama responded with his trademark cool way of citing facts.


Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, author of the GOP’s Medicare reform proposal, did acknowledge that he said during the meeting that the plan has been “misdescribed” by Obama and others as a voucher program.


“And so we simply described to him what it is we’ve been proposing, so that he hears from us how our proposal works, so that in the future, he won’t mischaracterize it,” Ryan said.


Thursday afternoon, Obama will hold a similar meeting with the Democratic caucus, and they, as well as the American public, will be looking for answers, says Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland). Many people were caught unaware when the president negotiated a deal with Republicans during last fall’s lame duck session that extended the looking for a repeat.


“There are a lot of Democrats who want to make sure we have input into anything that he signs on to. It’s also important to see where he stands because a lot of us are not sure and we’re wondering what his feelings about [a number of issues] and how much is he willing to cut to work out a deal,” Cummings said.


Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) seconded that. He said that Democrats will want to know “the point at which he won’t bend. We’re here in the trenches, but nobody knows what the president will agree to.”


Nobody wants to be caught on the House floor prostelizing about compromises they don’t want to make, only to find out later that Obama has struck a deal, Cleaver said.



(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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