Boehner, Pelosi Offer No Hints of Debt Deal Progress

BY Quinn Bowman  July 21, 2011 at 12:56 PM EDT

The leaders of both parties in the House of Representatives gave little reassurance Thursday morning that the two sides were making progress toward raising the debt limit, just 12 days before the Aug. 2 deadline.

House Speaker John Boehner said it isn’t enough to wish or hope for a solution, but that Republicans had laid out a responsible plan — the “cut, cap and balance” bill that is under consideration in the Senate. That plan, which could be put before a vote this weekend, is not expected to pass the Senate.

“The ball continues to be in the president’s court. I think he needs to step up and work with us on the spending cuts and reforms that the American people are demanding,” Boehner said. He added that Congress needs to both raise the debt ceiling and address America’s debt and deficit or risk a downgrade in the nation’s credit rating.

Beyond that, Boehner offered no hints that progress was being made on either a “grand bargain” to cut $4 trillion from the deficit over ten years or on the McConnell-Reid backup plan, which would give President Obama the responsibility for raising the debt limit and let members of Congress voice their opposition to the increase.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could not offer much information about progress, either.

“I can only say that I certainly hope so,” Pelosi said when asked if there was enough time to move any deal through both chambers of Congress.

“I think we have some of the pieces. It’s not going to be mysterious what ends up in the final product,” Pelosi added, with the caveat that the success of a compromise depends on the specific elements and how big the package is.

Pelosi did say that any progress on the impasse would need to include serious signs of debt reduction, but added that she wanted new revenue as part of the deal, and that “whatever we do has to create jobs.”

Boehner also put to rest the speculation that Republicans might embrace the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts as party of any deal. On Thursday morning Democrats had been trumpeting a Washington Post editorial which quoted Grover Norquist, an influential voice among Republicans, saying that letting a temporary tax cut expire would not violate his anti-tax pledge, which almost every congressional Republican has signed.

Boehner said that he would not raise taxes and that he considers letting the Bush tax cuts expire to be tantamount to a tax increase. Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform, later released a statement clarifying that he would consider the expiration of the Bush tax cuts as a tax increase.

“Any failure to extend or make permanent the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, in whole or in part, would clearly increase taxes on the American people,” the release said.