With his self-imposed deadline for releasing a deficit plan before overseas markets open just a few hours away, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said both sides were “not there yet" and pushed for a two-stage debt-limit vote.
“I would prefer to have a bipartisan approach to solve this problem,” Boehner said on Fox News Sunday. “If that's not possible, I and my Republican colleagues are prepared to do this alone. Today.”
It is not “physically possible” to get everything done before the Treasury Department’s August 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling, Boehner said. “There is going to be a two stage process.”
“I don't want to get anywhere close to [default],” he said. “This is about what's doable at the eleventh hour.”
Boehner’s office said late Saturday that a two-vote approach was now necessary in order to raise the debt ceiling immediately while tackling deficit-reduction later.
Boehner also criticized President Obama for recommending a debt ceiling deal be timed to last beyond the next election season.
“The president’s worried about his next election, but my God, shouldn't we be worried about the country?” Boehner said. “I'm not worried about the next election. I told the president months ago: Forget about the next election!”
The administration though has indicated that the debt ceiling should be raised at least through 2012, in order to take politics out of the negotiation.
The president said in his speech Friday evening that he would be willing to work on “any plans” that lawmakers brought him over the weekend. “The only bottom line that I have is that we have to extend this debt ceiling through the next election, into 2013,” President Obama said.
A GOP leadership aide indicated Saturday that Republicans would fight back if the president threatened to veto a debt limit increase because it conflicted with the election calendar.
Boehner announced on Friday that he was walking away from deficit negotiations with the White House due to the fact that that President Obama was “adamant” about raising taxes and would not agree to “fundamental changes” to entitlement programs.
"It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this deal," Obama said at the time, accusing the Republicans of not being able to say “yes” to any agreement.
“Last Sunday, I thought there was an agreement,” Boehner said on Fox News Sunday. “On Tuesday, the president said they need more revenue. [House Leader Eric] Cantor (R-Va.) and I said no.”
Boehner said this back and forth went on all week, until on Friday he made the decision to step back from the negotiation table.
“My last offer is still out there. I've never taken my last offer off the table, and they never agreed to my last offer,” Boehner added. On the other hand, “It may be pretty hard to put humpty dumpty back together again.”
However, Boehner said he is an “optimist” when it comes to reaching a deal on the debt ceiling and believes it’s his job to find “as much common ground as we can” in order to reach an agreement.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Saturday night that Boehner’s two-vote approach was on the table.
"One option is to do something in two tiers," she said as she left the Capitol, "and I don’t think we can accomplish what we need to do in deficit reduction without revenues."
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner however showed little enthusiasm for a two-tiered vote, saying on Sunday it “makes no sense” to leave the threat of a default hovering before the next election.