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Reid Presses Obama Not To Agree To Debt Plan With No Revenue

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"I only know what you know about the agreement -- the potential agreement," Reid said. "I've been told -- a call came in from the White House during this meeting that there's no agreement, they're working toward an agreement. What I have to say is this: The President always talked about balance. That there had to be some fairness in this. That this can't be all cuts. There has to be a balance. There has to be some revenue in the cuts. My caucus agrees with that. I hope the President sticks with that. I'm confident he will."

Exiting the meeting, Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) explained why Lew came to speak to the caucus -- to narrow the growing rift between the White House and the Senate.

"He was invited to come and talk about where the situation is," Conrad said. "And people expressed to him things they're very much concerned about. He repeated what the President has said publicly and privately repeatedly: That he thinks we need a 'big deal' to deal with the debt and that we also need to extend the debt limit."

He added that he doubts a large deficit reduction pass the Senate without new revenue.

"Obviously I don't [think it could]," he said.

Multiple Senate Democrats, including Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) expressed a preference for raising the debt limit along with a modest package of spending, and following on that with a bigger deficit reduction plan modeled on the Gang of Six proposal.

"We have ground to make up between the president and the senate," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). "When they have ground to make up it means there could be a little separation between the two of you."

At this point, Democrats are hoping they're popping a trial balloon -- proving to both Obama and Boehner that a no-revenue idea can't pass. The other, worse option, would be if Obama tried to squeeze an agreement with Boehner through Congress with a debt default looming.

One Democratic operative close to principals in the talks put it this way: "It is now up to Reid and Pelosi to have the courage to defend Democratic values and say no to a deal that will eviscerate Medicare and Social Security. Will they?"

UPDATE: A nearly two-hour meeting of Democratic leaders at the White House broke up without any result being announced. Democratic aides were also tight-lipped. No read-outs have so far been released.

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com