Democrats are being maddeningly tight-lipped about a leadership meeting with President Obama at the White House Wednesday afternoon. But a couple of key tells, and conversations with sources, suggest they believe — or want reporters to believe — that a “Grand Bargain” on deficit reduction and raising the debt limit, crafted by the White House and congressional negotiators, is still possible in the next couple weeks.
First, in remarks that have largely been walked back, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would consider a temporary extension of his borrowing authority. The caveat: this is only true if a deal’s been cut, the votes are there, but the legislative process (bill writing, budget scoring, voting) would drag us past August 2.
Second, a House Dem aide offered the following readout of the White House meeting. “House Democrats continue to support the President’s “grand bargain” proposal that will not balance the budget on the backs of seniors through cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.”
Now substantively, this isn’t quite right. All reporting and evidence suggests Obama’s grand bargain would cut the big three entitlements. But the message for us viewers is that a big deal is still possible — contingent on GOP leaders agreeing to it at their own White House meeting, which is still ongoing.
This could all be just a subtle way of putting the squeeze on Republicans with a debt default looming. That practically defies the clock, and, returning from the White House, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (R-IL) said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are still putting together their backup plan. But maybe it truly is a backup plan.
We’ll update you when we know more.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.