Never mind the mix of taxes and spending. With a potential default on the national debt less than a month away, President Obama and congressional Republicans can’t even agree on how much more borrowing authority any debt limit deal should involve. On Tuesday, Texas Senator John Cornyn became the latest Republican to suggest that the kind of grand multi-trillion deficit reduction deal needed to win Congressional support for extending the debt limit past the 2012 election isn’t feasible in the time remaining before the Obama administration’s advertised default doomsday of August 2. Cornyn said the debt ceiling should be extended for six to eight months, buying more time for a larger deal. (This would be the sort of “mini-deal” that Bill Clinton endorsed in Aspen this weekend).
No thank you, President Obama said Tuesday afternoon. Just days after a press conference largely aimed at framing the debt negotiations, Obama visited reporters in the White House briefing room to shoot down the burgeoning mini-deal talk. “I don’t share that view,” Obama said, calling it a cop-out that would “kick the can down the road,” on a larger debt-reduction plan. Obama may be concerned, as are other Democrats, that multiple extension votes will simply afford Republicans more opportunities to demand big spending cuts. (It certainly is hard to imagine that Republicans will be more inclined to compromise on another debt vote this coming winter, with the GOP presidential primaries in full gear.)
Obama also said he’s asked Congressional leaders of both parties to come to the White House on Thursday to continue talks (and has asked them to “leave their ultimatums at the door.”) The public wants to see a compromise solution now, he said, not another postponement: “I don’t think the American people sent us here to avoid tough problems. It’s in fact what drives them nuts about Washington.” Yet it remains far from clear that Washington will deliver a solution to this problem anytime soon.