Boehner: 50-50 shot at debt-ceiling deal in next 48 hours

Maybe all of those rumors of dealmaking on Capitol Hill were more than just White House spin designed to make Barack Obama look reasonable.  Either that, or John Boehner knows how to raise the bid in high-stakes poker games.  According to the National Journal, the House Speaker told his caucus to be prepared for a debt ceiling deal as early as Saturday:

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, informed fellow House Republicans on Thursday that the chances of congressional leaders and President Obama reaching a tentative debt-ceiling deal within 48 hours are “maybe 50-50.”

That prognosis from Boehner was relayed by several House Republicans as they left a morning briefing with the speaker — and later confirmed by a GOP leadership aide. Boehner and other Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are set to continue negotiations at the White House on Thursday on a deal to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

Two members walked out of the meeting — and onto the record — with even or better odds on their mind.  Peter King (R-NY) told NJ that he thinks “it’s better than 50-50,” while Billy Long (R-MO) stuck to even odds.  Two others, Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Trent Franks (R-AZ), also insisted that Boehner told them that the GOP remains uninterested in raising taxes.

Has progress been made?  Obama wanted to leave the impression that he wants to “go big” and tackle entitlement reform, although the extent of that desire remains to be seen.  The White House has still declined to publish a specific reform plan for either Social Security or Medicare, but if Obama wants to go to $4 trillion in cuts over the next decade, there is no other way to do it.  Boehner’s insistence on opposition to “raising taxes” may or may not preclude the option of closing “loopholes” in the tax code, especially in the corporate tax, a demand from Democrats.  Republicans might agree to that as part of an overhaul and flattening of the corporate tax code, but that becomes even more complicated as a deal sweetener depending on which “loopholes” get targeted.

If progress has been made, it will boost markets, but it will increase pressure for a deal, too.  If Boehner is attempting some counterspin, it may be to force Obama and the Democrats to deal in good faith rather than just make general and ambiguous statements about compromise.  One indication might be this warning from Franks:

Franks said it is his understanding there are clear indications a proposed deal was in the works, and that “I got the sense that, this July 18 work period [recess], that members should carefully consider their scheduling for signs of flexibility.”

Sounds like Franks is anticipating an extended session  or a quick return to Capitol Hill from a recess.  Given the time needed to mark up a deal, the 48-hour timeline isn’t a final chance at making that work, but it’s not far off, either.