Published December 23, 2015
With bipartisan budget talks in disarray, House Speaker John Boehner on Friday set his demands for a deal that would allow Congress to approve an increase in the nation's debt limit.
The statement, in which the top Republican in Congress ruled out tax increases, came as the White House announced top-level meetings would be held Monday "to discuss the status of the negotiations." According to the White House, President Obama and Vice President Biden will meet separately with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
The impasse is left to Obama and top congressional leaders to resolve after the Biden-led talks crumbled on Thursday. House Republican Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the GOP negotiators, pulled out over concerns that Democrats were pushing too hard for tax hikes.
But Boehner reiterated Friday that tax increases cannot be on the table if the Democrats want a bill that can pass in the GOP-dominated House. In order for Congress to agree to lift the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, Boehner said the president must also achieve spending cuts that "exceed the amount of the debt limit hike" and reforms that "restrict Washington's ability to spend in the future." Anything short of that, he said, cannot pass the House.
"These are the realities of the situation. If the president and his allies want the debt limit increased, it is only going to happen via a measure that meets these tests. If the president puts forth such a proposal, he has my word that the House will act on it," Boehner said in his statement. "But a measure that fails to meet these tests cannot pass the House. If the president wants this done, he must lead. ... With presidential leadership, we can seize this moment and deliver something important for the people we serve."
Boehner's office downplayed the fact that the speaker was not included in the announcement about Monday's meeting. "We're not in session next week. And Boehner was at the White House a few days ago," spokesman Michael Steel said.
Lawmakers nevertheless don't have much time to resolve their dispute. The Treasury Department says it can only stave off the risk of default until Aug. 2. The administration is calling on Congress to approve a debt ceiling increase before then.
In the wake of Cantor's and Kyl's decision, lawmakers on both sides were pointing fingers at each other.
"I think this is an unhealthy situation. This is a dangerous situation. We need to do something significant and time is running short," Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, told Fox News.
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., accused Republicans of "running away from the mess they created."
"Is this the adult moment they promised the American people in November?" he said.
Biden said in a statement Thursday that the negotiators "stand ready to meet again as necessary."
He suggested tax increases of some kind should be part of any deal.
"As the President and I have made clear from the beginning, the only way to make sure we begin to live within our means is by coming together behind a balanced approach that finds real savings across the budget -- including domestic spending, defense spending, mandatory spending, and loopholes in the tax code. We all need to make sacrifices, and that includes the most fortunate among us," he said.