Debt Debate Talking Points Heat Up

"I do not see a path to a deal if they don't budge, period. I mean, if the basic proposition is "it's my way or the highway," then we're probably not going to get something done because we've got divided government.”

-- President Obama in a news conference at the White House ahead of Monday’s debt and deficit meeting.

As congressional leaders get ready to meet with the president for a third day in a row at the White House to talk debt and deficit, both Democrats and Republicans are wading through each other’s proposals, deciding which points they may be able to sell to their caucuses.

But in an effort to sell the idea that they’re fighting for everything they can get, the rhetoric surrounding the debate is heating up. There’s no better reflection of that than the dueling press conferences held by President and the House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, ahead of yesterday’s White House meeting.

The talking points are all the same, however, and the president admitted there is still a “gulf” between the two sides. And from what’s being said publicly, they don’t seem to be building a bipartisan bridge.

A Democratic source close to Monday’s meeting told Fox News that Republicans are still balking at proposed tax increases on “oil and gas companies and corporate jet owners,” prompting an exasperated Vice President Joe Biden to say "come on man, let's get real."

Republicans insist their pledge that deficit reduction must come through spending cuts, not new taxes on upper-income earners is real. And Boehner’s frustration over the divide reportedly boiled over in Monday’s meeting as well during a testy exchange with the president.

A Republican familiar with the meeting told Fox News that Boehner was lamenting Congress’s votes to fund programs for which they can’t pay and said the GOP isn’t thrilled to seek entitlement cuts in the deal. The president noted that Republicans voted for the 2012 budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that makes cuts to Medicare at which point Boehner shot back. “Excuse us for trying to lead,” Boehner said, followed by silence in the room.

It seems the chippy nature of the rhetoric outside the room may be making its way inside. What remains to be seen is whether it will continue through yet another news cycle and another day of meetings.

But the divide works its way to the Senate today where the Senate will still be focused on the nonbinding, "sense of the Senate" resolution that millionaires should be taxed to provide revenue for a deficit reduction deal, something the measure's author, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., calls "shared sacrifice." Reid also moved to shut out all amendments on the measure, as Republicans were planning scores of provisions related to the debt crisis and beyond.

So while Republicans continue to hold the line of opposing tax increases, Senate Democrats will be calling for just the opposite ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s White House meeting.

Depends on What the Meaning of Balanced is

“To get to fiscal balance, the two critical elements required: spending restraint and economic growth. Tax hikes adversely undercut both of these key ingredients.”

-- House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in a memo to committee members obtained by Fox News.

It seems the “gulf” that separates Republicans and Democrats may be exacerbated by the fact that both sides appear to have a different definition for what balanced really means. Sure, in a mathematical sense, all sides can agree on what constitutes a balanced budget. But Democrats and Republicans have shown balancing other factors in an effort to achieve that end is up for interpretation.

“With respect to a balanced package, is the package that we're talking about exactly what I would want? No. I might want more revenues and fewer cuts to programs that benefit middle-class families that are trying to send their kids to college, or benefit all of us because we're investing more in medical research,” President Obama said Monday.

The president’s stated idea of balance is to keep the scales from tilting to favor spending or taxes. But Republicans come to the table with a different definition, one that’s clearly noted by House Speaker John Boehner in his pre-meeting press conference Monday.

“Most Americans would say that a ‘balanced’ approach is a simple one: the Administration gets its debt limit increase, and the American people get their spending cuts and their reforms. And adding tax increases to the equation doesn’t ‘balance’ anything.”

If Republicans believe the debt limit increase balances out spending cuts while Democrats believe cuts need to be balanced by more taxes, it’s no surprise there’s little compromise.

But those two statements illustrate Republicans’ position that their hang-ups about a deal are based on increased taxes may hold water. They also show the great width of that “gulf” the president describes as being between the two sides.

Intense California Special Election May Foreshadow 2012

"I don't know if it's because it's Hollywood or just Southern California but this has been one of the ugliest congressional campaigns in recent times and this is a harbinger of what's to come in 2012."

-- Political Pollster Frank Luntz on the special election in California’s 36th congressional district.

A special election today for a Southern California congressional seat may give some indicators of what Election Day in 2012 might look like.

While off the national radar, the race between Democratic Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Republican businessman Craig Huey has been hotly contested. The pair is running for the seat vacated by former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman back in February.

The coastal Southern California district has 18 percent more registered Democrats than Republicans but Huey is polling well, a fact some say is an indication of Washington mistrust.

With low voter turnout expected because of the odd timing of the election, the contest could be an indication of what’s ahead.

But going back to the primary, the battle for the seat has been particularly bitter and personal and it’s more likely that will set a precedent for 2012.

And Now, A Word From Charles

"'Allowed to keep'? Is this his conception of what taxation is? This is the liberal idea that the government owns you and your income and will decide in the wisdom what it allow you to keep after deciding what you need, what you are entitled to, and what income is extra."

-- Charles Krauthammer on Special Report w/Bret Baier talking about President Obama’s statement that he won’t sign off on a debt deal in which he, as a high income earner, is “allowed to keep” extra income.


Chris Stirewalt is taking some time away from Power Play this week but will return on Monday, July 18.

For the same period, Power Play, the Web show, will be helmed by a rotation of generous colleagues including Shannon Bream, Mike Emanuel, James Rosen and Juan Williams.

***Today on “Power Play w/ Chris Stirewalt”: Shannon Bream talks with Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., and Democratic Pollster Doug Schoen. Tune in at 11:30 a.m. EDT at http://live.foxnews.com/ ***

Fox News’ Adam Housley contributed to today’s Power Play.