By Russell Berman - 07/21/11 04:12 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he has prepared his members to compromise on the debt ceiling and that a majority of House Republicans could support a potential deal with Democrats.
In a news conference at the Capitol, Boehner pressed anew for the GOP’s “cut, cap and balance” plan but also pushed back against conservatives in his caucus who are unwilling to move beyond it.
“I’m sure that we’ve got some members who [aren't willing to compromise], but I do not believe that’s anywhere close to a majority,” Boehner said.
Asked earlier if he had prepared his membership to compromise, he replied: “I have.”
In an interview with 60 Minutes late last year, Boehner pointedly refused to utter the word "compromise" and instead said he would try to find "common ground" with Democrats.
Boehner’s comments on Thursday came amid increasing concerns, including from Republicans, that the hard-line House GOP will prevent any deal from being struck to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a default by the U.S. government after Aug. 2.
White House press secretary Jay Carney opened his daily press briefing on Thursday by saying a breaking news report from The New York Times was incorrect. The report said congressional leaders had been told a deal was near between Boehner and President Obama.
"There is no deal. We are not close to a deal," Carney said.
A spokesman for Boehner also said lines of communications are open but "there is no 'deal' and no progress to report."
Senate Republicans have signaled support for a bipartisan proposal offered by the so-called Gang of Six, along with a backup plan devised by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).
With 11 days before the deadline, the Speaker reiterated that it would be “irresponsible” for leaders in both parties not to consider “back-up strategies” for lifting the debt ceiling, but he would not discuss the meeting he and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) held Wednesday at the White House.
Boehner also responded to reported comments from Grover Norquist, the influential anti-tax activist, who was quoted as saying allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire would not violate his organization’s pledge against tax increases.
“I believe that would be raising taxes,” Boehner said of not extending the cuts. Norquist quickly clarified his remarks and repeated his opposition to getting rid of the Bush tax cuts.
The $3.7 trillion Gang of Six plan would render the Bush tax cuts essentially irrelevant because it calls for an overhaul of the tax code with lower overall rates, something that Boehner remains open to, a spokesman for the Speaker confirmed.
Boehner kept the pressure on Obama to hammer out a resolution to the impending crisis.
“The ball continues to be in the president’s court, and it’s been there for some time,” the Speaker said.
Sam Youngman contributed to this story, which was last updated at 4:12 p.m.