White House: Debt Talks To Continue Monday

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Updated at 8:16 p.m.

A Sunday evening White House summit on debt negotiations has concluded with no signs of progress after a weekend full of fits and starts in the talks between President Obama, Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

Throughout the past few days, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has sent mixed signals that the debt-ceiling needs to be raised while backtracking from attempts to reach a grand bargain to reduce the nation’s long-term debt.

After the Sunday evening meeting, Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer announced via Twitter that talks would continue Monday and Obama would hold a press conference at 11 a.m. but did not immediately characterize the state of play. Statements from Congressional leaders indicated that Democrats and Republicans were still locking horns on the key issues of tax increases and changes to entitlement programs.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blamed Congressional Democrats’ refusal to greenlight any changes to Medicare and Social Security for the ongoing stalemate.

“The members will meet again tomorrow, though it’s disappointing that the President is unable to bring his own party around to the entitlement reform that he put on the table,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in an e-mailed statement. “And it’s baffling that the President and his party continue to insist on massive tax hikes in the middle of a jobs crisis while refusing to take significant action on spending reductions at a time of record deficits.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement after the talks, saying Demorats are still squarely opposed to Medicare block grants to the states.

She said she came into the weekend hoping to achieve a grand bargain and “is still hopeful for a large bipartisan agreement, which means more stability for our economy, more growth and jobs, and more deficit reduction over a longer period of time.”

“This package must do no harm to the middle class or to economic growth,” Pelosi stressed. “It must also protect Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries, and we continue to have serious concerns about shifting billions in Medicaid costs to the states.”

While a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said his boss remains “firmly committed to getting the most robust deal possible,” and during the meeting, stressed the need for an approach that is “balanced
between spending and revenues, in terms of timing, specificity and
dollars.”

“Senator Reid believes the stakes are too high for Republicans to keep taking the easy way out, and he is committed to meeting every day until we forge a deal, however long that takes,” said the spokesman.

The meeting began at 6:10 in the White House Cabinet Room with President Obama seated at the center of the table, flanked by Reid and Boehner. The dress code was appropriately casual for a sultry Sunday evening in July. No one wore ties, opting for open-collar shirts and blazers instead.

A White House pool reporter shouted, “Mr. President, can you get a deal done in 10 days?”

Obama responded: “We need to.”

Follow this reporter on Twitter: @susancrabtree

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