Boehner: House will compromise on debt limit

By Andrew Taylor

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, July 21 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio is followed by reporters after a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 21, 2011.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner predicted Thursday that a majority of House Republicans will end up supporting some kind of compromise to avoid a government default. Democrats insisted that higher tax revenue be part of a deal.

White House budget chief Jacob Lew told reporters at the Capitol that "I'm unaware of a deal" between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans and he repeated that "we've made clear revenues have to be included."

All sides pushed against media reports that Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, were near an agreement on a grand bargain trading $3 trillion or so in spending cuts and a promise of $1 trillion in tax revenues through a later overhaul of the tax code as part of a deal to extend the government's borrowing authority.

"We're not close to a deal," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

"While we are keeping the lines of communication open, there is no 'deal' and no progress to report," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

What seems clear is that the White House and Boehner continue to negotiate in hopes of a large deficit-cutting package as an Aug. 2 deadline looms on extending the debt limit.

"''There has been a meeting of the minds ... to try and get a grand bargain, a big deal," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. "I think both sides have remained focused on that."

"I only know what you know about the agreement — the potential agreement," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. "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."

Earlier, Reid called up for Senate consideration a House-passed "cut, cap, and balance" measure that would increase the debt limit by $2.4 trillion, but which would condition the increase on immediate spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. But he said it "doesn't have one chance in a million of passing the Senate."

But Reid also announced that he would hold a vote on Friday to kill the measure, which he called "about as weak and senseless as anything that has ever come on this Senate floor and I am not going to waste the Senate's time day after day."

At a news conference, Boehner told reporters, "Frankly, I think it would be irresponsible on behalf of the Congress and the president not to be looking at backup strategies for how to solve this problem."

"At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to act," the Ohio Republican said.

Asked whether GOP lawmakers supporting the House's "cut, cap and balance" debt limit measure would be unwilling to ultimately compromise, Boehner said, "I'm sure we've got some members who believe that, but I do not believe that would be anywhere close to the majority."

Boehner's talk of possible accommodation in the protracted political stalemate over federal budget policy came as the Senate took up the tea party-backed House legislation Thursday.

Democrats argue that the measure would impose untenable spending restraints and set spending levels, as a percentage of the overall economy, on par with the mid-1960s — before the advent of Medicare and automatic Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.

The development Thursday reflected the reality that there's more talk than progress as official Washington wrangles daily over finding a way out of a debt dilemma that has the government sliding inexorably toward a first-ever default on its financial obligations.

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