As Debt Deadline Looms, Leaders Remain Far From Agreement

BY Ray Suarez  July 1, 2011 at 8:21 AM EDT

Union Station; photo by Douglas Graham/Roll Call

An American flag hangs at the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., for 4th of July celebrations. Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call.

The Morning Line

Washington’s debt talk theater delivered an encore presentation Thursday, with Obama administration officials and Republicans in Congress trading verbal jabs, one day after the president admonished lawmakers for not acting with a sense of urgency to raise the federal government’s $14.3 borrowing limit.

One after another, Senate Republicans made clear their displeasure with the comments made by President Obama during his news conference.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the president’s critique of Congress “absolutely disgraceful.”

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., suggested the president “just take a Valium and calm down” before coming to talk to Republicans.

In an interview with Jeffrey Brown on Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said it’s that kind of talk that has frustrated the president. “People still seem to be posturing for political advantage with political talking points when the American people are out there saying, solve the problem,” Daley said.

Amid the partisan blame game, sharp policy differences persist, with no signs of movement in the standstill.

“All of us know that Congress isn’t going to approve hundreds of billions of dollars in tax hikes. It’s not going to happen,” declared Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.. “The president doesn’t seem to get it.”

The president and congressional Democrats are insisting that any plan to raise the debt ceiling be “balanced,” involving a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to achieve the trillions of dollars in savings that Republicans are demanding to lift the borrowing limit.

Sen. McConnell suggested the president pay a visit to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with the GOP conference to “hear directly from Republicans why what he’s proposing won’t pass.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed the invitation, contending such an encounter would be unproductive. “What the senator invited the president to do was to hear Senate Republicans restate their maximalist position. We know what that position is,” said Carney. “He also…invited the president to hear what would not pass. That’s not a conversation worth having.”

One actual development that came about Thursday was the announcement by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that the Senate would sacrifice its Fourth of July recess next week to maximize the calendar days left to reach an agreement. “We will do that because we have work to do,” said Sen. Reid.

Lawmakers will very likely need those extra days; it was reported Thursday that negotiators would need to finalize a deal by July 22 in order to leave sufficient time for both the House and Senate to act on the legislation.

“An agreement will have to be reached by some point between July 15 and July 22 in order to write a bill and comply with congressional rules requiring advance publication before consideration, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations,” write Mike Dorning and Laura Litvan of Bloomberg.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said he can use various accounting maneuvers to keep the government from defaulting on its obligations until Aug. 2, when he runs out of options.

The Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman and Paul Kane report that the fast approaching deadline could force lawmakers “to approve a short-term increase in the debt ceiling — something almost all leaders have objected to doing — or risk a collapse in financial markets in early August as the final pieces of a debt deal are put into place.”

With lawmakers already giving up their Fourth of July break, there will be added incentive to strike a deal by Aug. 2, other than not putting the economy at risk: not risking their month-long summer recess.

GEITHER TO GO?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is considering resignation from his post after the debt limit drama is resolved, many news organizations reported Thursday. If Geithner resigns, it could create a vacancy in an important economic post just as the election season escalates.

Geithner has said previously that he will remain in the post for the foreseeable future.

Hans Nichols of Bloomberg provides context:

“An exit by Geithner would complete the turnover in Obama’s original economic team, with Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee scheduled to leave in early August to return to the University of Chicago.

“That would leave Obama with two key posts to fill as Republicans are seeking to turn the 2012 election into a referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy and as the recovery is slowing. The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent in May, according to the Labor Department, and the economy grew at a 1.9 percent pace in the first quarter, according to Commerce Department figures released June 24.”

Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times wrapped up some of the possible replacements if Geithner leaves:

“The usual suspects are known quantities to both Democrats and Republicans: Roger Altman, Erskine Bowles, Gene Sperling and Janet Yellen. Others possible candidates being speculated about on Friday include White House chief of staff Wiliam Daley.”

WHY NOT?

The field for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination will grow by one Friday when long-shot Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter is expected to file papers necessary to enter the race.

Rep. McCotter, who is in his fifth term representing Michigan’s 11th District, will be the third House member to enter the race.

David Shepardson and Nathan Hurst of the Detroit News report that Rep. McCotter’s campaign spared no expense in its bid for space at Iowa’s Ames Straw Poll:

“McCotter’s flirtation with a presidential bid over the past five weeks has had its ups and downs. At a Republican gathering in New Orleans two weeks ago, he came in last in a straw poll with just two votes of support. But last week, he was the second-biggest spender when staking out space for the Ames Straw Poll, the August fundraiser for the Iowa GOP, reportedly spending $18,000 for the second-best space at the hotel hosting the event.”

McCotter’s brand new campaign website boasts the slogan “Seize Freedom!” and five core principles:

  • Our liberty is from God not the government
  • Our sovereignty is in our souls not the soil
  • Our security is from strength not surrender
  • Our prosperity is from the private sector not the public sector
  • Our truths are self-evident not relative

The long shot also has some quirky attributes, reports USA Today’s Catalina Camia:

“A former chairman of the little-known House GOP Policy Committee, McCotter once advocated his leadership post and the entire panel be eliminated. He plays guitar in a rock band, once compared the 1994 GOP Contract with America to The Beatles’ album, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ and smokes cigarettes.

As befits his district, McCotter supports the auto industry. Sometimes, he’ll buck the GOP. For example, the newest GOP presidential candidate voted against the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts negotiated last year by President Obama and GOP leaders in Congress.”

FOURTH OF JULY

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