Boehner Calls Off Debt Talks; Obama: ‘We Have Run Out of Time’


House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama pointed fingers at each other Friday night over who’s to blame for the latest breakdown in the negotiations over raising the U.S. debt ceiling as an Aug. 2 deadline creeps ever closer.

Boehner said he was looking to negotiate with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress over a possible deal, but said he would attend yet another round of talks scheduled for Saturday morning at the White House.

Boehner released a statement Friday saying, in part, “I have decided to end discussions with the White House and begin conversations with the leaders of the Senate in an effort to find a path forward.”

He criticized the president’s stance on entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare, and his efforts to raise revenue. His surprise announcement came ahead of an Aug. 2 deadline for the government to raise the U.S. debt ceiling to avoid default.

“A deal was never reached, and was never really close,” Boehner’s statement said.

President Obama told reporters in a Friday evening news conference that “[i]t is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal,” pointing to a proposed package that included more than $1 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending and trimmed $650 billion from entitlement programs. He said the deal went further than even the bipartisan “Gang of Six” plan did.

The debt talks have stalled largely because of House Republicans’ resistance to any increase in revenue and the president’s stance on Social Security and Medicare.

Speaking after President Obama, Boehner did say he was confident congressional leaders could come together to avoid a government default.

Boehner accused President Obama of “moving the goal posts” by demanding $400 billion in tax increases in addition to about $800 billion in revenues to be collected through a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code.

President Obama criticized the approach of Republicans, saying it “essentially asks nothing of corporate jet owners, of oil and gas companies. It asks nothing from folks like me who’ve done extremely well and can afford to do a little more.”

The president has called for an 11 a.m. Saturday meeting at the White House with Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

He said he had been working with Boehner until he “couldn’t get a phone call returned” earlier Friday. He also said Republicans were not willing to make the same sacrifices politically as Democrats. “The question is, what can they say yes to?” he asked.

Asked if he was optimistic that some sort of agreement could be reached, the president said “I cannot believe that Congress would be that irresponsible that they would avoid sending a self-inflicted wound to the economy.”

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