The Senate’s top Republican invited President Obama to a GOP lunch at the Capitol to discuss the ongoing dispute over the debt and related issues, but the White House on Thursday rebuffed the invitation.
A day after the president at his news conference challenged Congress and especially Republicans to move quickly on the nagging question of increasing the debt ceiling, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the minority leader, urged Obama to meet with Republicans to explain his position.
“That way he can hear directly from Republicans why what he’s proposing won’t pass,” McConnell said. “And we can start talking about what’s actually possible.”
At his televised briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Republicans just wanted to restate their maximalist position. “That’s not a conversation worth having,” he said, adding the administration was still open to talks about a compromise.
Carney refused to say if the president had plans to meet with Senate Democrats next week. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) told reporters on Thursday that he had invited the president and Vice President Joe Biden to meet with Democrats and that he expected them to attend.
The Senate had planned to be out of town next week for the July Fourth holiday, but Reid changed plans after GOP leaders said they were prepared to meet. Republicans were reacting to Obama’s jabs about how his daughters got their homework done early while lawmakers were taking time off even though the debt-ceiling deadline was approaching.
All parties face an Aug. 2 deadline to act on increasing the debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion. Failure to act would lead to default and throw the international markets into turmoil, Obama has argued.
Democrats are seeking what they call a balanced approach, asking for $760 billion in tax revenues, largely by cutting tax breaks on corporations and wealthy individuals, which Republicans oppose. Both sides back spending cuts, but they have yet to reach final agreement on the size and programs to be trimmed.
There is also the question of changes in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, which the GOP wants to overhaul. Democrats have argued that the debt issues shouldn’t be resolved at the sole expense of the elderly and the poor.