With supercommittee deadlocked, leaders Reid and Boehner meet

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) met Tuesday, a sign they might take a larger role in deficit talks, congressional aides say.

A leadership aide said Reid and Boehner discussed a range of topics in Boehner’s office but declined to provide any details.

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Some congressional sources interpreted the meeting as a sign that the deficit-reduction talks of the supercommittee are moving to the leadership level.

But leadership aides in the Senate and House say the meeting does not signal that Reid and Boehner are taking over the floundering negotiations.

“They’re not about to dive in,” said one aide.

A bigger role for Reid and Boehner in the talks seems the next logical step, however, as supercommittee members acknowledge they are at an impasse with only eight days until the Nov. 23 deadline.


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Reid declined to comment about the meeting as he walked to a Democratic lunch meeting Tuesday.

The supercommittee is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts by Nov. 23. Failure to reach a deal would trigger across-the-board cuts of the same amount divided evenly between discretionary and security spending.

In a closed-door briefing Tuesday, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the Republican co-chairman of the panel, said divisions among Democrats are standing in the way of an agreement. He told his colleagues the GOP had put multiple offers on the table that Democrats had yet to accept.

Boehner told reporters that the GOP offer was “fair,” referring to a $1.2 trillion proposal by supercommittee member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that included $300 billion in new tax revenue.

“Both Democrats and Republicans have all done good work, they’ve worked very hard, but there isn’t an agreement,” Boehner said. “I’m convinced that if there is an agreement that it can, in fact, pass.”

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Democrats have acknowledged differences among the party's six supercommittee members. Panel member Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), on Sunday said Democrats had “not coalesced” around a $2.2 trillion offer.

But House Minority Whip Steny (D-Md.) downplayed any division between the House Democrats on the panel, arguing that the differences between Clyburn and Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) are minor relative to the shared goal of securing a grand bargain. 

"I see unity among all three," Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. "There are differences of opinion, as would not surprise you. [But] Mr. Van Hollen and Mr. Clyburn and Mr. Becerra are all working towards a big deal — the $4 trillion objective." 

"I'm not going to target which one of them may or may not do what," Hoyer added. "But  ... when I sit with the three of them, they're all three wanting to go to the same place." 

— Russell Berman, Erik Wasson and Mike Lillis contributed to this report.

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