Boehner, McConnell say deal may be on the way

National Journal reports on this ray of (limited) sunshine after a case of dueling chambers killed off the only two proposals on the table to the debt-ceiling impasse.  John Boehner and Mitch McConnell told reporters that talks on a compromise have suddenly improved, mainly because the “right people” have come to the table and have started taking things seriously.  Want to guess who the “right people” are — or more precisely, is?

Immediately after the House rejected a Democratic proposal for raising the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared before reporters to say they are in negotiations with President Obama and that a deal will be reached before a critical Aug. 2 deadline.

“Our country is not going to default for the first time in history,” McConnell said as he posed with Boehner in the Speaker’s Capitol Hill office on the 2nd floor. “That is not going to happen. We now have a level of seriousness with the right people at the table that we needed. We’re going to get a result.”

Boehner concurred: “Despite our differences, we are dealing with reasonable, responsible people who want this crisis to end as quickly as possible and I think we will.”

The AP answers the question:

After weeks of intense partisanship, the White House and congressional leaders made a desperate, last-minute stab at compromise Saturday to avoid a government default threatened for early next week. “There is very little time,” declaredPresident Barack Obama.

Obama met with top Democrats at the White House and spoke by phone with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

“He needs to indicate what he will sign, and we are in those discussions,” McConnell said of the president. He added he had also spoken with Vice President Joe Biden, who played a prominent role in earlier attempts to break the gridlock that has pushed the country to the verge of an unprecedented default.

“The right people at the table” isn’t a reference to Joe Biden.  Biden has no role other than advisory in this or any other negotiation.  Obama has to sign any agreement reached by Congress, and it appears that Obama has decided that a failure to get some sort of agreement will damage his standing even further than the crisis has already.

For the two Republican leaders, this is likely a response to the events of last weekend, at least from their perspective.  The GOP insists that they cut a deal with Reid along the lines of the bill Boehner tried to pass on Thursday, but that when Reid took it to Obama, he pushed Reid into reneging.  In that context, neither Boehner nor McConnell have much to gain anymore from haggling with Reid, who could have stood up to Obama and passed the compromise earlier in the week.  Instead, the two GOP leaders want Obama to get serious and to deal directly with them, which is apparently what happened.

The White House downplayed the statement, but didn’t deny it either:

Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer used the social networking site Twitter to declare: “RE GOP presser: 1) Both McConnell and Reid have said there was no agreement 2) House GOP couldn’t even pass the bill they think was agreed to.”

My prediction is that we will see a deal structured in two installments of the debt-ceiling hike using the McConnell mechanism, which combined will hit the amount Reid wanted, and with the cuts and assumptions built into the Boehner proposal (with possibly a few changes, which should be checked), with a commitment for a balanced-budget amendment vote in the Senate included.  A package like that could get a grudging majority in both chambers, and if it did, Obama would have little choice but to sign it.  I suspect we’ll see an announcement before midnight tonight on something along those lines — or on a short-term debt-ceiling hike of no more than $100 billion to give them a little more time to get there.