This should be one of the least productive meetings ever held in Washington DC:
President Barack Obama is summoning top Democrats from the House and Senate to the White House Wednesday afternoon for talks on raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says the meeting will take place shortly before 3 p.m. EDT. When asked why Obama was not meeting with Republicans, Carney would only say there were no other meetings to announce.
I’m certain that the President wants to gather them in the West Wing to review all of their published plans for dealing with deficit reduction and the debt ceiling. But what will they do in the second minute of the meeting?
They’re probably going to discuss how to push the Gang of Six proposal as the solution, even though it won’t be ready until well after the debt-ceiling deadline of August 2nd. Obama insisted last week that he wouldn’t accept an interim debt-ceiling hike, even to get to the “grand bargain” he demanded in his series of press conferences. In fact, The Hill expanded on what the timing would be on the GO-6 bid:
Senate Democratic leaders, for their part, said there is not enough time to combine the group’s plan with a bill to raise the debt ceiling. It could take weeks or even months for the slim framework to be drafted into legislative language and scored by the Congressional Budget Office, sources said.
Washington has less than two weeks to meet an Aug. 2 deadline, when the nation faces a possible default. Lawmakers and Senate aides alike wondered whether the Gang of Six had coalesced too late to have an impact on the partisan standoff.
The only possibility would be for Obama to agree to a short-term increase in the nation’s borrowing authority, but Democratic leaders say that is unlikely.
So that means that Democrats would want the McConnell plan as their fallback, right? Er … no:
House Democratic leaders are attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) debt-ceiling fallback plan, characterizing it as a political ruse intended to scapegoat Democrats and taint them at the polls.
“I’m not a fan of the McConnell proposal,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said Tuesday during a press briefing in the Capitol. “It’s designed to protect mostly Republican members of Congress from taking responsibility for votes that they’ve already made.”
What will be the meeting agenda today, then? The President wants to discuss the non-existent plans from Democrats in order to push the proposal that a small bipartisan group announced without any legislative language, so that he can get the debt-ceiling hike he demanded weeks or months after his own drop-dead date, while refusing to accept the bill approved in the House last night that would raise it immediately or to contemplate any other short-term solutions.
I take it back. This might be the longest meeting in Washington history, if it requires attendees to determine what the heck they’re doing there in the first place.
Update: Well, it looks like the schedule wasn’t as closed as Carney first indicated. According to his Twitter feed, the White House has now added a 5 pm meeting with John Boehner and Eric Cantor.
The Obama administration signalled it may accept a short-term increase in the U.S. debt limit if it is combined with a major agreement to cut the deficit.
“The president has been clear that he will not support a short-term extension of the debt ceiling” without an agreement to cut the deficit, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters today. President Barack Obama plans to meet with top congressional Democrats today as the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the US$14.3-trillion debt limit nears.
The Financial Post, which published this Bloomberg wire report, says this is a “strings attached” offer — but by whom? It was the Republicans who insisted on tying the debt ceiling hike to substantial deficit reduction. This is a capitulation on Obama’s earlier refusal to consider a short-term extension to allow for more bargaining time.