Boehner is eager to get an agreement on spending and the debt ceiling before he leaves office.
House Speaker John Boehner’s last week will be a busy one.
Boehner and the three other top congressional officials—House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid—are closing in on a deal that would both raise the country’s borrowing authority ahead of a crucial deadline next week and increase spending over the next two years, according to a congressional aide.
The deal isn’t final, but multiple reports confirm the talks are picking up speed ahead of the Nov. 3 deadline to raise the debt ceiling and a Dec. 11 deadline to keep the government running. The New York Times reports that the deal includes cuts in Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, citing anonymous officials.
“There’s no budget deal that doesn’t involve health mandatory cuts,” a source familiar with the negotiations told National Journal last week. “That’s just where the money is.”
A House source said the emerging deal would include a “clean” suspension of the debt limit until March 2017 and “would also address the Medicare Part B issue, protecting millions of seniors from significant increases to their premiums and deductibles.”
Boehner has said he wants to “clean the barn up” before his successor—most likely Rep. Paul Ryan—takes over later this week. But it’s unclear whether the House will have the votes to pass such a deal, even with strong Democratic support, given the number of Republicans who are wary of voting for a debt-ceiling increase.
The last-minute discussions come as top officials in the Obama administration warn of the dire economic consequences of even approaching the first-ever U.S. default.
In his press briefing Monday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest wouldn’t confirm that a budget deal could be soon announced, or that the deal would last for two years. Earnest did say the negotiations had been underway for several weeks, and the House source said the emerging agreement was a product of the discussions that began in mid-September.
Administration officials have engaged in a “significant number” of the bipartisan talks on the Hill, Earnest said: Not only in an effort to provide “technical advice,” but also because President Obama will need to sign off on whatever agreement is reached. He wouldn’t go into specifics about the negotiations’ details.
“We have worked assiduously to protect the privacy and confidence of those discussion principles because they’re based on this principle that nothing is agreed to … until everything is agreed to,” Earnest said.
As it stands, not everything is agreed to, so that means “nothing is agreed to.”
Earnest knocked Republicans for passing budgets in the past “strictly on party lines,” and said the White House has been saying all along that Republicans need to “try to find common ground” with Democrats.
The White House hopes that congressional Republicans can engage in talks with Democrats in a manner similar to the budget negotiations spearheaded by Sens. Patty Murray and Paul Ryan after the last government shutdown.
On the debt limit, Earnest said the administration isn’t willing to negotiate, noting that debt ceiling legislation has historically been attached—going back as far as Ronald Reagan—to bills the White House knows will pass Congress. Earnest said Congress could attach it similarly this time around, or pass it in a standalone manner.
“We are on track for further economic growth—yet with eight days, as of Monday, until Treasury runs out of borrowing authority on Nov. 3, some in Congress are endangering this progress by once again manufacturing a crisis for our country,” wrote Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in a USA Today op-ed published Monday. “By waiting to the last minute to act on the debt limit, Congress could cause a terrible accident. This is not an abstraction; failure to raise the debt limit would mean devastating impacts for taxpayers, consumers and businesses.”
“Increasing the debt limit does not authorize future spending or fund new programs—it merely enables us to pay the obligations that Congress has already incurred,” he added.
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