White House officials say they will assess Friday whether they can reach a deal with opposition Republicans on raising the U.S. government’s legal borrowing limit. President Barack Obama negotiated with top lawmakers from both parties Thursday, with a deadline fast approaching.
Less than three weeks before the deadline to avoid a government debt default, top Democrats and Republicans ended a fifth straight day of talks Thursday without an agreement.
No discussions are scheduled for Friday, and President Obama has scheduled a news conference at the White House.
The president’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said top administration officials will discuss Friday whether a deal is possible, and what to do if it is not.
“The president views Friday as an important moment where we can make an assessment about whether we are moving toward a significant bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction or not,” Carney said.
Sources say Mr. Obama Thursday asked the eight top Democratic and Republican lawmakers to agree on the outlines of a deal within 36 hours.
The Treasury Department has said the U.S. will no longer be able to pay all of its bills on August 2 if the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling is not increased. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned that the country is “running out of time” to raise the limit.
Presidential spokesman Jay Carney expressed optimism that a deal could be achieved, but he suggested that Republicans are more focused on political concerns.
"That agreement is right here, within reach. It is on the table. Just have to reach for it and grasp it and be willing to compromise to do it. And you know what? That requires thinking about the broad American public and not the narrow bands or the narrow constituencies within your own party," Carney said.
Democratic lawmakers have rejected Republican deficit-reduction plans that include cuts to social programs. Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, object to Democrats’ insistence on increasing tax revenue.
“Republicans will not be reduced to being the tax collectors for the Obama economy. We will not be seduced into calling a bad deal a good deal. If he and the Democratic Senate would rather borrow and spend us into oblivion, they can certainly do that. But do not expect any more cover from Republicans. None,” McConnell said.
The partisan rancor extended to the Senate floor Thursday. The top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid, called the second-ranking House Republican, Representative Eric Cantor, “childish” and said he should be excluded from further talks.
“Even Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell seem to understand the seriousness of this situation. They are willing to negotiate, which I appreciate and the country appreciates. Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has shown that he should not even be at the table,” Reid said.
Cantor Wednesday accused President Obama of storming out of a negotiating session. Cantor himself had walked out of earlier talks with Vice President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, the leader of one of America’s biggest financial firms implored officials to reach an agreement on the debt limit. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase said it would be irresponsible for the U.S. to default on its debt because the result could be catastrophic.
And a Chinese credit rating agency, Dagong Global Credit Rating Company, has threatened to downgrade U.S. government debt if the borrowing limit is not raised. China is the largest buyer of U.S. sovereign debt.
Several top U.S. credit agencies have issued similar warnings.